A Plan to Discuss is Not a Plan

Many companies have been trying to reduce the overhead of meetings, to no avail. Here is one idea that may help. Never set up or attend a meeting where the subject line reads:

“Discuss [topic]”

…with no agenda. Here’s some examples of meeting invites I’ve had over the years:

  • Discuss technology direction
  • Discuss production outage
  • Discuss deployment plan
  • Discuss new design

Of course these meetings never have agendas. What value do these meetings provide? None! A friend of mine compared these kinds of meetings to bar conversations. You know those; lots of fun dreaming about “what ifs” and coming up with a plan on how to “make it big”. And what happens after those conversations? Nothing. It’s as if they never happened.

Let’s rewrite those meeting invites to be a bit more productive (don’t forget to include an agenda!)

  • Decide whether to build the application using .NET or Java
  • Create an action plan that minimizes production outages
  • Decide whether to use Ruby on Rails or CakePHP
  • Define the test cases for User Story XYZ

Notice that the verbs imply finality, while “discuss” does not. To “Decide”, “create”, or “define” means that you will leave the meeting with something finalized. You now have a definition of “Done” for the meeting.

You will never know when you are “Done” if the goal is to discuss.

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