Scott Priddy has over 25 years of software engineering and architecture experience in the fintech industry. He started his career in the late ‘90s as a Senior Engineer at Tivoli, a company that IBM had just acquired, then went on to work for distinguished brands such as Visa, PayPal, Vyze, Mastercard, and Ally.
STX Next had the pleasure of working with Scott for several years during his time with Vyze and Mastercard. He is currently the CTO of B Generous—a fintech startup powering non-profit organizations and donors.
Having spent several years in senior and lead engineering positions, Scott had had his fair share of meetings; however, he realized he really wasn’t a fan of them in 2007, when his role demanded that he attend several meetings every day.
As a result, he began to reconsider the value generated from meetings compared to the cost incurred by companies organizing those meetings. He believes that meetings may be distracting and counterproductive for employees and is passionate about helping teams remain productive without unnecessary meetings.
This article summarizes our conversation with Scott Priddy on helping your team work efficiently without meetings. However, if you’d rather watch the live recording, you can do so via the link below:
Meetings can be great for sharing important information with your team and getting their feedback on projects and tasks. However, the point of meetings is to get everyone’s attention and focus, which requires time to execute tasks that will be economically beneficial to the company.
Meetings are also a good way to get the team together to discuss issues and make decisions, but they’re not always needed to achieve this. Your team can still collaborate effectively without them. Here are some tips to help your team remain productive while skipping unnecessary meetings:
Apart from meetings, other distractors may make your team less productive. For example, frequent emails, group projects, random chats with colleagues, and lengthy briefs that pop up in the middle of the day can interrupt your team’s workflow even more than meetings. Hence, it’s best to find a way to minimize these distractions.
Scott recommends organizing your team’s work to minimize distractions. For instance, you can use task and project management platforms to assign specific tasks to members. This way, they can easily figure out what they need to do and focus on doing just that.
Organizing tasks will also ensure that projects are completed faster, as each team member will take responsibility for their part of the project.
Everyone has a time in the day when they are most productive. It may be in the mornings, afternoons, or toward the close of business. It may even be certain days in the week. Sadly, teams often lose peak periods to meetings because they do not allocate their peak periods to important tasks and projects.
You can get the best out of your team if you allow them to timebox certain periods during the week to focus on just work and no meetings. In Scott’s words, “Defend your team’s peak period and don’t give in to distracting meetings.”
As a tech leader, you’re responsible for guiding your team and will have to communicate with them occasionally to do so. So rather than scheduling meetings for briefings, Scott recommends creating effective communication channels to share tasks and important updates without interrupting your team’s workflow.
For example, you can have dedicated Slack channels to share briefs and important updates. Your team members will get notified and will be able to tell if they have a new task or an update without having to sift through emails.
Time management is important if you want your team to be more productive. Projects may be unnecessarily delayed if your team does not manage time effectively. This can also affect the organization’s productivity.
Helping your team manage time effectively will ensure that you stay on top of projects and meet deadlines. You can also fit in more tasks such as recruitment, organize social activities for your team, and make long-term plans if you manage your time properly. Scott advises using time management tools to plan your work around your schedule.
If you or your team are currently immersed in the meeting craze with a calendar that leaves no free time to get some actual work done, you may already be considering clearing your calendar to remain productive.
However, meetings are often engraved in an organization’s culture, and you can’t just walk away from them. If you need a way out, here are some tips Scott shared that may help:
Scott recommends starting with a clean slate or a clean calendar without meetings lined up all week. This may be difficult to achieve and may be met with some resistance.
However, starting afresh with a clear calendar will help you get back to the root of your team’s responsibilities and plan or manage your team’s time and resources in a manner that ensures your team has enough time to execute their responsibilities.
Not all Scrum, Agile, or status meetings are essential to meet your goals. An email, quick phone call, or Slack channel update may be a more efficient way to communicate certain tasks with your team than meetings.
Hence, it’s best to schedule only essential meetings, even for software development methodologies that require meetings. According to Scott, “You need to cancel recurring meetings and stick to the core meetings of any development methodology your team adopts.”
While meetings can be necessary occasionally, your team may appreciate having meeting-free days. Meeting-free days will help them work with fewer interruptions and execute tasks quicker. They can also find the time to plan their week and socialize with other team members.
Depending on your team’s preferences, you can set the “no meeting” days at the beginning or end of the week. You can also start with half-days to ease your team into the “no meeting” days. It would also be good for you to implement this across the board to avoid getting pulled into meetings with other teams.
In Scott’s words, “You do not need to pull your team into every meeting.” Let your team members know that it’s okay to decline meetings where they aren’t needed or contributing and put their time to better use.
This will reduce the cost incurred for meetings, ensure that work continues during meetings, and improve your team’s efficiency.
Not all meetings need to feature business talks, current affairs, and status updates. It’s best to have social meetings where you can check up on your team members and talk about everything but work.
Social meetings are a great way to bond with your team and build chemistry. Scott strongly recommends that you intentionally not talk about business in social meetings to build your team’s chemistry. In his words, “You need to do things that are not work-related to build chemistry.”
Since the essence of a meeting is to bring people together, you can bring your team members together to interact, bond, and have fun.
Last year Scott Priddy (the CTO with years of experience) told us during our #TechLeadersHub session to cut down on meetings.— STX Next (@STXNext) April 25, 2022
But HOW exactly does one do that?
How do you break away from the meeting madness?
THREAD 👇#techleadership #bestadvice #teamproductivity
While it’s important to ensure that your team does not depend on excessive meetings to collaborate and manage tasks, certain meetings may be inevitable.
However, the inevitable meetings should always be maximized to ensure that the time and resources spent organizing such meetings are not wasted. Here are some strategies that you can implement to get the best out of meetings:
According to Scott, “A meeting agenda is a binding contract. It tells everyone invited to the meeting what to expect and helps them figure out if they need to attend the meeting or not.” A meeting without an agenda can drag on for too long, may feel disorganized, and may not be a productive use of your team’s time.
Hence, it’s important to draw up an agenda and share it with everyone expected to attend the meeting ahead of time. It helps the attendees make preparations for their contributions to the meeting. Scott even recommends allowing your team to actually decline meetings without an agenda!
Few people find long and large meetings engaging, so the shorter you make your meetings, the more engaging and productive they will be. To ensure that your meetings don’t drag on for too long, allot time slots for each item on the meeting agenda. This will allow everyone to stay on track and make the meeting more productive.
In addition, make sure that your meetings start on time and end on time, as well. Frequent and lengthy meetings that go beyond the scheduled time won’t be the best use of your team’s time, since they may have organized their work around the free time on their calendar.
Productive meetings need to be planned properly and in advance. It would be best if you delegated someone in the team to make the necessary preparations for the meetings. This usually includes the venue, audio and video devices, drawing up the agenda and budget for the meeting, and contacting facilitators, attendees, and guests.
If the meeting is not properly planned, it may be disorganized and less productive. Therefore, ensure that all meetings are properly planned before sending the meeting invite.
Meetings tend to come with loads of instructions, outcomes, and tasks that were not originally discussed, and it’s easy to lose track of the new list of things to do if you have meetings piled up all day. Hence, it’s important to take minutes at each meeting and send action points of tasks arising from each meeting.
Scott recommends assigning someone on the team to take the minute of each meeting and share the outcomes with the team members for execution after each meeting.
Most organizations are stuck on the meeting madness, and it may be difficult to change the process. However, eliminating unnecessary meetings will help your developers. It may also come with added benefits such as increased communication flow, efficiency in task management, and more social time for your staff.
Meetings should never be a distraction, so if your developers need more time to focus on their priorities, start by reducing the number of meetings on their calendars.
Thank you for reading our article. We recommend watching the full live session recording to benefit from all of Scott’s tips on hiring and building a committed team. Also, if you liked this content, make sure to subscribe to our Tech Leaders Hub newsletter and never miss another session from industry experts!
Before you go, we encourage you to check out other guides and resources on our blog to help you manage your team better and increase your team’s productivity.
If you’re building a product or are thinking of creating one, we offer a wide range of product development and related services that can help you achieve that goal. Feel free to contact us at STX Next for support with your software projects!