Are there too many meetings in Agile?

A few months ago I was asked the following question, and wanted to share my thoughts.

Sometimes there are too many meetings and our developers find it difficult to be really focussed and do justice to development activities. Are there any inputs you could give to improve such an environment? We’re thinking of something like; no meetings Fridays or limit meetings to 2 hrs a day.

In the first instance, this indicates a serious disfunction in your organisation. If you’re spending more than 2 hours in meetings per day you’re doing something wrong. One of the intentions of lean and agile delivery is to limit waste and focus on only those activities that add value. This includes meetings - we only hold meetings where they add value to the product delivery. If we take Scrum as an example, there are only 4 proscribed “meetings”:

  1. A daily 15 minute standup
  2. A planning session
  3. A sprint review
  4. A sprint retrospective

The intent of these 4 is to replace the need for most other ad-hoc meetings that traditionally impact team productivity.

If you’re holding a lot of additional meetings, you need to look at the root cause. Why are you having these meetings? Who’s asking for them? What do they achieve? Are the right people in the meeting? Are the wrong people in the meeting (see who spends the meeting on their phone to answer this one)? etc, etc, etc.

You must also understand the distinction between distraction and collaboration. You want to encourage collaboration, but if the team is finding it distracting then, once again, you are probably doing it wrong. Look at mechansims that you can adopt to improve how your teams collaborate. For example, create a social contract that sets rules around collaboration and interuptions. Or, consider adopting pair programming techniques to build collaboration directly into the development cycle.

What are your thoughts? Let me know below.