Reduce your meetings (what you can learn from Basecamp)

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Reduce your meetings (what you can learn from Basecamp)

How can you reduce your meetings, build more flexibility in your day, and be more productive at the same time?

The Workshop Wednesday community helps you to run high-energy and result-driven workshops so that you can take back control over your workweek.

And in today's episode, I'm going to show you a workshop you can copy today, and this workshop will help you to start replacing your meetings.

The Workshop Creation Playbook

In the last video, I showed you, step-by-step, how you can use the Workshop Creation Playbook to create your own workshops. We used an example of creating a workshop about working remote.

And today, we're going to Zoom in (sorry about that) on the last steps of the Playbook, so we're going to create the workshop formats, and we're going to set up the slides so that we can run the workshop.

What I did was to start a new Google Slides presentation (this can also be a Keynote, PowerPoint) and I copied the workshop skeleton to the slides.

Check-in & Check-out

The outline is:

  • Check-in
  • Workshop Part One
  • Coffee Break
  • Workshop Part Two
  • Check-out

I always like to start with a Check-in and end the meeting with a Check-out.

An easy way to come up with creative Check-ins is to make use of this Check-in Generator by Daresay. There's a link in the template.

So, this question could be, "What are you excited or worried about related to today's work?"

We're setting the stage, and we want to make sure people are focused on the right topic.

And for the Check-out, I always like to know what the people think of the progress we made during the workshop, and also how confident they are about the next steps, and an easy way to do that is to make use of this dartboard.

You can ask people to pick a smiley that represents their current mood, or it can also be their own smiley they choose, and then put that on the dartboard.

So, if they are maybe a bit overloaded, but they are really confident about the experiment, then they put it like this, and this way you can easily get a feeling and get a grasp at the end of the meeting how happy people are with the result.

And in the top-right corner, you'll see a time box, five minutes for the exercise, so that's the maximum amount of time that you use for it, and I like to put that on every slide so it's a reminder for myself, but it's also helpful for the team so they are more aware of how much time we are going to use for this.

And talking about time boxes, it's always nice to have a timer visible, at least for yourself, but maybe even for the whole group.

You can use bigtimer.net for it, I like that one.

You can create your custom time boxes here, so you just copy the time box that you see in the slide, and then you press Start, and it starts counting.

What I like about this is that you can share your screen with the rest of the meeting so that you always have a visible timer in the meeting itself.

Of course, you can also use your phone.

Workshop Part 1

Okay, and now it's time for the fun stuff.

We're going to deep-dive
into the workshop.

Let's start with Part One,
and we want to help the team

"Identify what level of
autonomy they are in."

And I think it's sufficient
if we show them the video,

and that they have some time
after the video to reflect

and to see maybe what they can improve

in their current way of working.

And, of course, having a video
like this can save you time

within the actual workshop itself.

So, we time-boxed 15 minutes
for this part of the workshop,

and if you have a team
that comes in well prepared

into the meeting, then
you can send this video

as a pre-watch, but if you
think that not everyone

will watch it, then calculate
some time within the meeting

so that you can all watch
it at the same time.

And after you are sure that
everyone has seen the video,

then you want to go into
small group discussions.

You want to talk about

the "Benefits of
asynchronous communication,"

and you want to help the team
make a list of opportunities

where they see room for improvement.

1-2-4-All Liberating Structure

A really great way to help people to reflect and come up with ideas is the 1-2-4-All exercise. It gives them room to think about what they just heard, come up with ideas and then discuss it with each other.

This comes from the Liberating Structures,

and I'll put a link to that below as well,

but what it comes down to
is that you have one minute

for yourself, two minutes
in twosomes, in pairs,

four minutes in foursomes,
and then, five minutes,

we're going to discuss
it with the whole group.

So, if you have a team of eight people,

then everyone starts by themselves,

and then you have four teams of two,

you have, then, two teams of
four, and then you're going

to discuss with all eight
people at the same time.

And this is where you level
the playing field more

for your team, it's easier
for people to contribute.

It's a bit more difficult to hide.

And now, within 15
minutes, you have a list

of opportunities which you can use.

For this specific workshop,
we want to make a list

of meetings that can be replaced,

or maybe partially replaced,
and we want to first start

by identifying, what are
the real-time meetings,

and then see if we can move
them to asynchronous meetings.

Examples of asynchronous communication

But asynchronous, it's a
word that we don't use daily,

so it can be a little bit fake,

and luckily we have
Basecamp to the rescue.

They've published their complete Playbook,

and one of the parts is their Guide

to Internal Communication.

And it consists of two
parts, the rules of thumb,

and the general philosophy,

which lists 30 principles they apply,

and a second part about
communicating day-to-day,

about the toolset they used,
and some automatic process

that they used, and we're
going to use this Guide

to make it more concrete, what
asynchronous really means.

So, let's put a screenshot of the Guide

into our workshop, and also link to it,

and we're going to help the team in making

more bite-sized chunks
of the whole article.

But if you sent the Guide as a pre-read

into the agenda invite,
then it can help a lot,

because if somebody
already read it before,

it gives them more time
to process what they read,

and also more time to think
about how they can apply it

to their own work.

And for this specific workshop,

I like to focus on principle number three,

which is about internal
communication via long-form writing,

and how this can lead to a
welcomed reduction of meetings,

video conferences, calls, or
other real-time opportunities.

And the reason you want to minimize

these real-time opportunities
is because they interrupt

your day or other people's
days, and this is killing

for your productivity.

Making a list of meetings

So, now that we have set
the stage in the workshop,

we're going to ask the
people in the workshop

to make a list of routine meetings

they think that can be replaced.

We first give them the
opportunity to reflect about it

and to think one minute for themselves,

and you want people to write things down.

So, it can be either in
the Google Slides itself

if you give everyone access, or it can be

a different tool which you
prefer, it can be Google Docs.

If you are onsite, then you
can use even real Post-its,

remember how it was back
in the day, but make sure

that you prepare and that
you have something ready,

where people will write things down.

And when the time is up, so
the first minute is done,

you invite the team to make
pairs and to discuss the thing

they have listed down, and see
maybe where there's overlap.

Maybe they get new ideas
when talking to each other,

ask them to write that down as well

so that you are creating a
collective memory for the group.

And what I like to do
here is, before starting

the two minutes, I like to
introduce another concept

from the Basecamp Guide,
and this is this one,

"You can not not
communicate," and this way,

we give them the Guide
in more bite-sized chunks

instead of overloading them
with all of the information,

and they can use this as
well in the discussion

they have with each other.

And I'm going to do the same
for before the foursomes.

So, "Speaking only helps
who's in the room."

It can be something, it can be a prompt

before going into the
four minutes you have

when you're going to talk in foursomes.

And then, in the last step,
"All", you have five minutes

where you're going to discuss everything

which just happened in small subgroups,

and you're going to
discuss them with everyone,

with all the people in the room.

And you want to see
patterns, and you want,

best of all would be
if the group themselves

comes with the insights
where they see opportunities

and room for improvement.

Break

And then it's time for a break.

By taking a break, you give your team (and yourself) the opportunity to reflect on what you just talked about and to recharge. Which is an easy shortcutfor better productivity.

So, make sure that every 60 to 90 minutes, you build in a break of 10 to 15 minutes, and then go for a stretch, maybe a walk, grab a bite or a coffee, and make sure that you are continuing the workshop after 15 minutes.

Okay, I'm all refreshed, so let's continue.

One of the challenging parts about breaks is the start after the break, and a couple of things you should do to make this more easy for yourself and for the team is to be really specific on the time that you're going to continue, so for example, say 10:34 or 10:37 as the time that you will continue the workshop.

Because then it's easier to remember.

And what you can also do is give people an assignment before the break, or maybe pose a question so that they have some time in the break to think about it, and they are eager too restart again.

Also, an easy trick is to make them do something as soon as possible after the break because then they can get back into their focus mode.

Workshop Part 2

Okay, Workshop Part Two, which is still quite an agenda, but luckily, because we already did a lot of the groundwork, we can speed up this part of the workshop.

Let's start with the alternative to meetings.

If you look at the second part of the Basecamp Guide, they describe a couple of examples on how they replace their meetings.

So, for example, this one: an automatic daily,

Instead of doing a meeting, they ask the people - via their product, which is also called Basecamp - "What did you work on today?".

Everyone writes up and shares it, so that everyone in the company can read it.

This creates a level of transparency, which gives a lot of freedom, loose accountability, and also builds in strong reflection.

If you do this on a place where everyone can see it, then it's also easy to ask questions and comment on anyone's "What did you work on today?".

In this way, it's easier to contribute to each other's work.

So, let's add that to our workshop, automatic dailies and weeklies.

I just made a screenshot of the Basecamp Guide about the automatic daily and weekly, and I gave some examples how you can do that.

You could write it in Basecamp, which is their project tool. You can use Google Docs with Google Calendar.

You can also use WhatsApp to record audio or video messages at the end of every day.

And, of course, you can make use of a tool of your choice.

Skill building

This part of the workshop is really about skill-building. You want people to practice this,

and then to make a first iteration of it.

because then it becomes easier
to pick up this routine.

You can use this slide
or set up your own system

where people fill in their dailies,

but it's important that they practice

and that you give them a
time box to practice within.

And then, after the first practice,

you can do the same with the weekly,

"What will you be working on this week,"

every Monday morning, and you ask people

what would they write down
in their first weekly.

And now it seems like a
great time to introduce

principle 28 from the Basecamp Guide,

and that is to ask if things are clear

and to be specific in
what you want to learn.

So, for example, what you could do

is you make use of the comment system.

So, in this case, I highlighted this part,

and I edit the comment,

and then I ask a clarifying question.

You can do this with most of the tools,

and this is a really important
part because then it's easier

to collaborate with each other.

Write a heartbeat

For the leader of the group, I invite them to do another exercise than writing their first daily and weekly.

I ask them to to write a Heartbeat.

In this case, I copied the text so I could highlight it.

Heartbeats, they summarize the work for a given team, written by the leader of the group, meant for everyone in the company to read, and they summarize specifically the big picture accomplishments, they detail the
little things that mattered, and highlight the importance of work.

They also shine a light on challenges and difficulties.

I invite the leader of the group, (while the rest of the group is working on writing their first daily and weekly) to write the first Heartbeat.

And when their 10 minutes
are up, then invite the team

to give each other feedback
on the dailies, weeklies

and the Heartbeat that were written,

and you can do that as well
with using the comments.

You don't have to actually
rewrite them, but the comments

help people to reflect on
things they could improve.

Setting priorities

Okay, we're almost there.

We want to "Create an
experiment for two weeks

to partially replace one meeting,"

and to be able to do that,
we have to prioritize

which meeting that's going
to be, and a great tool

for setting priorities is
the Impact Effort Matrix.

Is it easy to do or hard?

Does it make a lot of impact
or is it a waste of time?

And by mapping the meetings on this scale,

then you can easily make a
decision what you want to do

with the meeting, and
then everything that's in

the top-right corner,
that's easy and impactful,

you should keep, at least for now,

and maybe some things that are hard,

but still make a lot of impact,
you can replace parts of it.

Things that are easy, but a waste of time,

they're usually busy work,
so try to see if you can

completely remove it, or maybe replace it

with asynchronous ways of working.

And things that are hard
to do and a waste of time,

please do yourself and
your teammates the pleasure

by removing that meeting
from your calendar.

Plan an experiment

And the last and final step is to plan an experiment.

It would be a waste of time if we just invested 60 to 90 minutes talking about better ways of working together and we didn't follow up on it.

You can do that with the experiment questions.

"What meeting are we going to replace?"

Pick the one in the bottom-right corner,

or maybe one from busy work
if you think there's room

for improvement, and then think about,

when are you happy with the
outcome, in what timeframe,

and what action steps are we going to take

to actually make this
experiment a success?

And a challenging part
of doing an experiment

is to actually make sure that
you keep to the experiment.

So, take some time to discuss
on how you want to do that.

And that's it because the
last step is the Check-out,

and we already thought about
that, and our workshop is done.

Download the workshop

Now, we can run the workshop. We can help our team in finding better ways of working together.

If you want to do this workshop with your own team, then become a member of the community below.

You'll the Google Slides template or can download the PDF.

Feel free to change anything you want to the template because it's just a starting point.

But if you do so, please let me know in the comments on YouTube, or send me a message, because I'm happy to learn from you.

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