With entire sprints lasting just a couple of weeks, agile meeting techniques have allowed fast-moving businesses to make key decisions quickly and confidently. Gone are the days of meetings eating up your entire afternoon. Now, we need to set priorities and get right back to making them a reality.
But cutting through all the buzzwords, how exactly do you apply agile methodology to meetings?
In this article, we’re going to detail the what, the why, and the how of seven agile meeting techniques that can improve the quality of contributions, but most importantly, the speed of your decisions.
The daily standup is perhaps the most synonymous aspect of agile methodology. Luckily, it is also among the easiest agile meeting techniques to implement, even for remote teams that can seamlessly run standups through video conferencing software.
The theory is simple: You set aside no more than ten minutes every day, usually in the morning when your team can give updates in a group environment. The time constraint forces people to stick to what is most relevant, such as tasks completed or roadblocks encountered. But there’s no time to dig into the details, so put a pin in any difficulties and set up a meeting to tackle them later.
But putting the “daily” in daily standups is what really boosts your decision-making. The transparency you achieve by getting updates every day gives you a near-real-time picture of how your team is doing. This way, you’re never going to make critical decisions based on out-of-date information.
In addition, the fact that the whole team is there to hear about sticking points means you can draw on a range of perspectives to fix issues. When a team member announces that they have a difficulty, you can throw a question out to the group asking who would like to help when the time comes. As a double benefit, this also allows you to catch problems before they get out of hand. By dealing with issues before they snowball, you can maintain the headspace and freedom to make forward-thinking strategic decisions that lead to continuous improvement.
Timeboxing encapsulates one of the most important agile meeting techniques and it influences many others on this list. Tackling the age-old issue of meetings running on through the afternoon until it’s time to go home, time-boxed meetings put a strict time limit on each meeting. This pushes your team to dive straight into the heart of the discussion, with the organizer stopping tangents and meandering conversations as soon as they appear. The result is a switch in focus, prioritizing succinct, actionable outcomes over extensive deliberation.
From a psychological point of view, time-boxed meetings energize teams by setting a tangible endpoint. Similar to tight deadlines on regular tasks, these time limits give meetings like sprint planning and retrospectives a sense of urgency to get things done. As the meeting is over at the specified time, your team can then bounce straight back to their tasks without having to rearrange their calendar with new priorities because of a session that overran.
Essentially, timeboxing plays a dual role. It is primarily a constraint, but that is precisely what makes it a powerful motivator that gives your team a real sense of purpose. This makes it ideal for jobs usually left on the back burner, such as deciding how to clear your product backlog and resolving persistent issues. Your solutions may not be perfect, but at least they’re done.
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It’s all too easy for scrum meetings to get stuck on a puzzle, focusing so much on the task at hand that they miss out on the bigger picture. In these situations, agile meeting techniques like user story mapping can push you out of your silo, bringing in new perspectives and stakeholder feedback.
Start off by creating a visual storyboard that illustrates your user’s journey, based on pre-sale and post-sales stages in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. It should include motivations for use, pain points, customer service, and more to give you a clear picture. Then, by analyzing and understanding the user experience, you can prioritize your product backlog to work on features that will have the biggest impact on your end users.
User story mapping should also integrate customer feedback into the planning process. Armed with first-hand information from those who know your product best, you can make fast, confident decisions, safe in the knowledge that you’re spending your time efficiently. In the spirit of continuous improvement, each new launch should be an opportunity to gather feedback on your changes as you gradually refine your product.
Imagine one wall of your office covered with creative features or challenges that have come out of a brainstorming session. You’re somehow going to have to choose a smaller selection of these options, so why not go the simple route and take a vote?
Each team member gets a limited amount of dots, each representing a vote, which they can distribute among the options in front of them. Not only do you get to make an informed decision, but you get a wide range of stakeholder feedback. Everybody on your team, from the project manager to the intern, gets an equal say, improving your team unity.
The visual aspect of dot voting means you can get an at-a-glance consensus of your team’s priorities. This comes in especially helpful for spring planning when deciding on the next set of features is something you really your team to get behind.
In the spirit of agile methodology, dot voting also does away with excessive discussion and pushes team members to make quick decisions. There’s no need to justify your choice, it’s just a measure of what is most popular.
Dot voting also helps to break the deadlock on tough issues where there’s no wrong answer, per se, but you can’t all agree on which pathway to take. With this agile meeting technique, you can avoid loud voices from taking priority and work as a fair and balanced team.
Two-step decision-making is a meeting technique that first sets up an environment of free-flowing ideas, before critically analyzing each one to see how it aligns with agile best practices. By splitting the decision-making process into two stages, teams manage to strike the balance between innovative, left-field ideas and actionable tasks that contribute to the overall success of a project.
Let’s break down the two stages.
In the idea generation stage, teams take a no-holds-barred approach, contributing diverse suggestions, no matter how uninhibited. The guiding principle here is to find fresh ways of doing things that disrupt business as usual. Typical idea-generation topics could be new features for an app to offer added value above and beyond your competitors or ways to streamline your in-house editing and approval workflow.
To get the most out of these freeform agile meeting techniques, you first need to convince everybody that there are no wrong answers and that every point will be welcomed. This is not something you can achieve through a quick email. It takes repeated affirmation, so the more idea-generation meetings you run, the more comfortable your team will become.
Now you’ve got a bundle of brainstormed ideas, it’s time to move on to the decision-making stage. By creating a mini checklist, you can evaluate each suggestion in terms of feasibility, impact, alignment with your brand, and any other factors that are important to you. The main goal of this second step is to filter your suggestions down until you’re left with a manageable set of tasks that positively contribute to your project.
Implementing two-step decision-making into your scrum meetings is a tried-and-tested method for coming up with unconventional breakthrough ideas that too often get dismissed before they can be fully explored. Be strict with your timings to avoid going off-topic, and you’ll have well-thought-out decisions in no time.
Most of the formats we’ve covered here rely on the entire process being a group task. However, there is always room for individual work within agile methodology, and agile meeting techniques like silent brainstorming can often help you make key decisions more efficiently.
In this method, teams replace the back-and-forth of collaborative brainstorming sessions and instead split off to come up with ideas on an individual level. After an allotted time, the team regroups and displays their ideas on a physical or digital board. The project manager will then lead the session as everybody analyzes and evaluates each point one by one.
Silent brainstorming is also an ideal way to get new perspectives from people who are often drowned out by louder voices. When working on an individual level, they feel more relaxed and frequently bring innovative new ideas back to the table that would have gone unnoticed in a group format. Similarly, the siloed aspect of this methodology prevents prevailing thoughts from taking center stage. Unaffected by groupthink, people come up with unique ideas that combine into a wide spectrum of thoughts.
But it’s not just the high quality of suggestions you get from silent brainstorming. The fact that you get fully formed ideas eliminates a great deal of time-wasting discussion that comes from the group setting, allowing you to reach a decision far quicker.
Fast-paced tasks such as sprint planning often miss out on excellent opportunities simply because decision-makers can’t visualize the end product. It’s not down to a lack of competency, it’s usually a simple choice between one pathway that is easy to understand and another that seems more difficult.
Rapid prototyping is the most practical of our agile meeting techniques and involves creating a basic physical or digital model that adds color and clarity to daring new ideas. This way, the project manager can get a better handle on what a new feature would look like. Rather than discussing the theory, people can now interact with a prototype, which falls comfortably within agile best practices of continuous improvement. It enables teams to quickly iterate on stakeholder feedback and adjust their approach quickly.
Of course, not every idea is gold dust, and rapid prototyping can help in this respect, too. Instead of embarking on a theoretical path that ultimately results in a dead end, the more hands-on format of prototypes can help you make quick decisions to reject an idea before it starts eating into your timeline.
As well as shaping your spring planning, you can also use rapid prototyping to clear out blockers in your product backlog. It’s almost inevitable in project management to have some stubborn tasks that nobody wants to sit down and fully deal with. But by encouraging your team to create rapid prototypes in a fun, experimental environment, you can better understand the challenge you’re facing and uncover unique ways to progress.
While our seven agile meeting techniques for rapid decision-making concentrate on the strategic side, there’s a lot you can do on the structural side, too.
Bitrix24 is an all-in-one platform that comes with everything you need to implement agile methodologies. From Kanban project management tools and calendars with Gantt charts to collaborative documents and time-saving automation, you can run quick, creative meetings and launch the next sprint easily.
So, if you need to implement agile meeting techniques to turbocharge your decision-making, sign up for Bitrix24 today.
The key components of an effective agile meeting are:
Agile meeting techniques streamline decision-making by:
A daily standup is a meeting of around ten minutes that focuses on only the most relevant updates, such as current tasks and immediate obstacles. A retrospective is a more thoughtful process that reviews the past one or two-week sprint and identifies areas for improvement in the next sprint.
Remote teams can incorporate agile meetings with the smart use of digital collaboration tools. For example: