The #1 way to kill business agility

Can Agile Practices Save Large Organizations from Ineffective Meetings?

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in — the pace of change is frenetic, resulting in enormous pressure to deliver more of the right stuff, faster and better than ever before.

Responding to this pressure requires business agility and effective collaboration. However, one nagging, all-too-common problem stands in the way of this reality: ineffective meetings.

While meetings remain one of the fastest, high-bandwidth ways to quickly solve complex problems and achieve alignment, if executed poorly, they’re agility killers.

Agile practices

Agile practices like Scrum are supposed to solve this problem. Scrum very clearly calls for only five meetings that, collectively, take around 10-20% of a team’s total available time. The lean nature of Scrum ensures that participants are aligned, engaged and use the time to drive progress.

It’s a great theory that can work well for smaller organizations. But it isn’t the reality many of us face.

The Reality

Larger organizations present clear challenges to Scrum theory.

Development teams face meeting demands outside of scrum protocol. Meanwhile, managers and executives face a storm of meeting requests. Numerous studies show that most managers spend between 50%-80% of their time in meetings.

The decentralized nature of most large organizations means that meeting participants often come from different teams, with different priorities and different levels of understanding. While meeting goals are legitimate, these formalized gatherings don’t always prove effective.

Making the shift to Agile practices requires further transparency, decentralization, empowerment and co-creation. Ironically, this may necessitate even more meetings because co-creation by empowered teams requires more collaboration than traditional “command-and-control.” If you move away from command-and-control authority, diverse teams must establish and maintain their own alignment. Again, in small organizations, this process is fairly natural but in larger organizations it is not.

Is the issue actually meetings?

Many business professionals will tell you that meetings are a poor way to spend their time.

I think that says more about our skills at running meetings than it does about meetings themselves.

If the essence of agility is decentralized, empowered teams, then collaboration becomes critical to business success.  Organizing a large workforce to achieve alignment and drive a common mission is a difficult process. It requires problem-solving, negotiation, consensus building, vetting and so on – the kind of work we do in meetings. When our meetings are broken, we see the results: indecision, in-fighting, lack of clarity and conflicting goals.

It’s easy to blame “meetings” for a lack of successful decisions when it may be our ability to collaborate and run meetings effectively.

We need to think differently about meetings. Done well, with purpose and discipline, meetings are the work of collaboration!

Meetings are the glue of agility

I argue that when you get to any scale beyond a team of two, effective meetings are the glue that holds agility together to the benefit of the organization.

I’ve found that high quality meetings have a few common characteristics:

  • Attendees are involved and engaged
  • The conversation stays on topic and on schedule
  • Participants have a clear sense of what was accomplished and decided on
  • Next steps are obvious

While these characteristics are great, what tactics can you conduct to achieve them? And how can you ensure this happens every day, for every meeting?

Visit Instant Agenda to learn how you can do this quickly and painlessly. Start running 5-star meetings TODAY!

For more information on Agile practices, check out our Guide To Agile Meetings.


Michael Ball-Marian is co-founder of Instant Agenda, a product in the CA Accelerator. Michael was…

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