Online Meetings: Sinful time killers to sassy time recoveries

Online Meetings: Sinful time killers to sassy time recoveries

Online meetings are a great way of creating team sync, especially in a remote working environment. In fact, I have seen huge bottlenecks lifted with just a 10 minutes brainstorming meeting. However, as Ilya Pozin of Inc.com puts it:

It’s safe to say most people are addicted to meetings. It doesn’t quite make sense, especially from a boss’s perspective. Meetings are expensive. The hours your employees spend in meetings are hours when they’re not working.

The No. 1 Way to Kill Productivity – Ilya Pozin

From my experience of managing remote teams for 4 years now, the more a team depends on meetings, the lower their efficiency and proactiveness go. Let me explain. When a team starts working remotely, it’s easy to rely on online meetings for quick information sharing across teams. In the beginning, online meetings can accelerate productivity because people are put to task and the urge to quickly transition, but after a while, they start to lose the grip of the responsibility.

They become less proactive and want to wait for meetings to seek clarification. They start to associate their inability to achieve on other people. Things start to get thick. The number or length of the meetings starts to increase because there is more to discuss like he didn’t do this because she didn’t do that. It becomes a cat and mouse chase. These events are more prominent in teams where the concept of remote work is just starting to grow, and many businesses are in this stage at this time.

We’ve been there. We’ve done that. You and your teams don’t have to. You can set standards and procedures from day one.

The Brainverse Phenomenon – Time killing machine

To be frank, I am proud of the mistakes we have made because they have made us who we are now. And this was surely one of them 😎.

Daily meetings from 7.00 am to 7.30 am, sometimes extending to 7.45 am in our team of 14 cost us 35 man-hours per week ( 30 mins * 14 people * 5 days ). If you do the math, it translates to paying 1 member of the team half their salary just for attending meetings, which were already becoming monotonous and redundant, crazy, right?

A few weeks ago, I attended a Zoom online meeting organized by Young Kenyans in Tech (YKT) founded by Esther Kinuthia & Elsie Birech with tech lovers most of whom work for multinational tech companies like Facebook, Google, Booking and more, plus innovative and large Kenyan tech companies. When I mentioned that we had meetings every day, I could see the 🤔 look on their faces.

Alex Mutiso, who was in the Zoom call from Dublin, Ireland speaking about his previous engagement back in Kenya said that a manager just needs to give clear objectives and expect the team to act on them and give good reports. Now, this made me question hard, the clarity of the objectives I give 🤨. Simply put, my deduction is — give clear objectives, provide resources, and give them social distance. If they are responsible enough, it will be done.

After the meetup, I sought to find out where we were losing it, hence the analysis above.

Fixing the system, together – Time recovery

Our first quarter’s yearly plan review came late due to the disruptions of the Novel Corona Virus and this gave us a chance to put this scenario on the table for our team leaders to brainstorm.

After a series of discussions, we came up with 4 candidate meeting configurations that would see us spend more time working. The team of 6 team leads was able to consolidate the 4 configuration ideas into one that perfectly fit our scenario, at least for the moment.

DAY MEETING DURATION # OF MEETINGS AVG STAFF # MAN-HOURS
Monday Team Leaders Meeting 15 mins (0.25 hrs) 1 6 1.5
  Specific Team Meetings 10 (0.17 hrs) 6 3 3
Tuesday No Meetings. Work with one-to-one consultations if needed.        
Wednesday Team Leaders Meeting 15 mins (0.25 hrs) 1 6 1.5
Thursday All Staff Meeting 20 mins (0.5 hrs ) 1 14 4.7
Friday Team Leaders Meeting 15 mins (0.25 hrs) 1 6 1.5
  Specific Team Meetings 10 (0.17 hrs) 6 3 3
TOTAL         15.2
BEFORE         35.0
SAVED         19.8

Do you see how much time we are saving? 19.8 man-hours every week! Wait, the question is, is it working and is it worth it? Are we losing anything by reducing the number or duration of meetings? NO. We are just forcing ourselves to innovate and find ways of adapting to the new durations and frequencies we have.

Less time, more productivity

In order to keep up with the reduced online meeting times and to stay productive, we sought to implement some strategies that Pozin shared in the Inc.com article and some of our own. Here are the top 3.

a) Automation

Productivity-wise, this is our biggest step. From reducing online meetings agenda to being able to do ad-hoc consultations and task follow-ups and reminders. We have found a lot of help in Startup Suite, for Projects & Tasks Management alongside other amazing features it has for companies like us. Need more automation tips?

With Startup Suite, we can visualize our entire projects base, staff work load by department or by any range of time we need. Real time push and email notifications are a big help in keeping our teams informed

Startup Suite

b) Focus on deliverables, bottlenecks & EDDs*

To make the online meeting short, this update has to be made in 1 minute 30 seconds. We encourage team members that have solutions for bottlenecks to just point that out and they can have a one-on-one talk to help fix the problem.

*Expected Delivery Dates

c) Being prepared for the meeting

We have been a victim of the opposite of this, especially with the lengthy and monotonous meetings, due to redundancy. Online meetings feel easy, and planning can be easily skipped. The teams can now prepare more adequately and give actionable updates during Online Meetings, making them more meaningful.

d) An online meeting == VIP Event

We have to a great extent limited our meetings only to those we consider vital to the topic of discussion. We encourage staff to decline meetings they feel they are not supposed to be part of, especially if it could potentially delay deadlines or other more important activities.

I hope these insights help you better organize your team Online Meetings and stay productive. A big thanks to Young Kenyans in Tech (YKT). Check out YKT’s programs.

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Author Details

An Electrical Engineer by profession and Software Engineer by passion and practice. He spends the day building  IoT & Digital Manufacturing Solutions, and early mornings and evenings running Brainverse Technologies, leading a team of 14 young individuals building products and services that help businesses grow their digital footprint and build internal operational strength.

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