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Think about your last status meeting. How many times were participants distracted by project-specific conversations before someone said, “Hey, let’s take this offline?” Did everyone involved in the meeting have to be kept informed? And how hard was it to schedule a time that worked for team members in different time zones?
Not so long ago, status meetings were the most efficient way for teams to share project progress and work out issues. But in an age of fatigue, it’s worth wondering if that’s still the case. No matter how many ground rules you make to keep status meetings as short and sweet as possible, it’s easy for them to become counterproductive and for team members to back off.
Fortunately, there are better ways to track project progress and keep the right people informed. By using a combination of engagement and task management tools, you can track projects and promote collaboration asynchronously, reducing headaches for team members and meeting facilitators.
Related: Would your teammates rather look at the paint than go to your status meeting?
The problem with synchronous stand-ups
Synchronous meetings require real-time interaction. Every time you meet in real time, you have to determine the logistics: who should be there, when you will meet and which items you will handle. Synchronous meetings also require manual registration, either by the project manager or by individual team members. You also need to decide where to keep that data and how to make it visible to the group as a whole. And as your team grows and evolves, you’ll need to rethink all of these considerations.
Even if you have a tight agenda, constant enforcement is needed to keep the meeting on track. Otherwise, some team members may wander, share more details than necessary and take too much time for side conversations, forcing some attendees to check out. The real-time format may also not be appropriate for the range of personality types on your team. Introverted team members may feel that they are put on the spot when they are expected to share their work progress in front of their colleagues, and different people achieve the highest productivity and concentrate at different times of the day. Unnecessary status meetings can disrupt their flow.
The solution? Go asynchronous
Asynchronous meetings free you from many of the challenges of traditional meetings, while still allowing you to achieve the same goal of tracking project progress. With asynchronous meetings, team members are given a set time frame to provide updates on their progress. Using engagement and task management tools in combination, they can log status updates and relevant information, which can then be automatically shared with the wider team.
Instead of spending 30 minutes to an hour listening to a roll call with statuses that may or may not be relevant, each team member can spend a few minutes providing their updates. If additional conversations or support are needed, this can be done through communication apps or face-to-face, if individual team members prefer.
Related: How to Hold Impactful Meetings in the Future
How asynchronous meetings work
Most teams are already familiar with using task management tools to assign, receive, and view tasks in a central location. Of course, simply ticking off tasks won’t convey context, and it can be difficult to ask complex questions in the comments section of a task management tool. Task management tools also focus on completing tasks, so they aren’t always good at tracking progress and identifying hurdles before hitting or missing a milestone.
That’s where engagement tools come in handy. While task management tools allow you to capture quantitative data about your tasks, engagement tools allow you to capture qualitative data. Using an automated engagement tool, you can ask a series of simple questions to get a clear picture of each team member’s progress:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you doing today?
- Are you blocked for something?
Any answer can be automatically shared in your collaboration tool of choice, where everyone can see it. You can see at a glance what everyone is working on, who needs the most help and what they need help with. You can route issues to the right people without forcing disengaged team members to listen to side conversations.
With the combined task management and engagement tools, meetings no longer need to take place in real time. Instead, team members can check in at their own pace. You also get an automated summary of daily progress, which you can use to track trends and execute post-mortem projects.
How to start?
Implementing asynchronous meetings requires a shift from typical practices, but it doesn’t necessarily come with a steep learning curve. There’s no need to dive in all at once. You can start by replacing one or two daily standups with asynchronous meetings. This gives team members an idea of the new approach. You can also try out different questions to find the right match for your team.
Communicate to your teams why you are implementing this approach and what is expected of them. Most will welcome the idea of reducing the number of meetings on their agenda, but some may worry that they are not aware. Others may need some help getting into the habit of answering the daily questionnaire. Reassure hesitant team members that your collaboration tools provide the information they need, and use scheduling reminders for your more forgetful colleagues.
Related: Managing an Asynchronous Workflow
Make meetings meaningful
Let’s face it: When you replace synchronous meetings, you lose some face-to-face interaction. But the idea isn’t to completely eliminate interactions; it is to make them as meaningful as possible. At my company, we’ve seen success with asynchronous status meetings because team members don’t feel like their time is being wasted. Individual employees have the autonomy – and the extra space in their agendas – to collaborate in the ways that work best for them, and project managers can spend more time moving projects forward rather than struggling with schedules, recording status updates and relevant notes, and policing those annoying side calls.
So, is it really time to say goodbye to the status meeting? Probably not all. Sometimes they still have their place. But clearly, there’s a better choice to keep information sharing and projects on track while eliminating many time-consuming face-to-face meetings for your team members.