Part #2: Agile meetings run by an agile chairperson

All of us have attended many meetings during our careers, some good and some not so good. The idea of the sprint meeting: where hands on stakeholders (product owner(s) and technical team) meet for 10 to 15 minutes each day, stand up around a white board and answer 3 basic questions:

#1 What did you do yesterday (reporting back on the commitment you made the day before),
#2 What are you planning to do today (today’s commitment) and
#3 Is there anything stopping you fulfilling your commitment.
Ranks high in my book as a good way to run a meeting to get an understanding of the status of a project, it's: concise, precise and efficient. These meetings are co-ordinated and arranged by the scrummaster (Product or Project Manager).

Sprint meetings which are an essential part of the agile scrum framework.

Sprint meetings are not too different from many typical management meetings that we attend – ironically, these meetings are not conducted in an agile way or form part of an agile framework. These meetings have very firm agendas where each item is time-boxed. It's the job of the chairperson to firmly keep the meeting on track – the final agenda item is traditionally 'any-other-business' (AOB ) which is usually time-boxed at round 5% to 10% of the total meeting time. Some chairpersons will do a 'round robin' in place of AOB – giving each person time to raise any issues they may have (this too is usually time-boxed to 5% to 10%) not enough time to tackle any real issues of concern.

It goes with out saying that the way you chair and organise a meeting depends a lot on the type of meeting, the aim and circumstances surrounding the meeting and the people who will be attending.

For regular team meetings I prefer the more flexible agile approach where the chairperson sets the agenda, gives plenty of opportunity for those attending to add agenda items, publishes the agenda before the meeting and then raises each agenda item in turn but allows the team to divert onto other topics (irrespective of whether the item is or is not on the agenda). The chairperson tactfully pulls it back on track if the discussion does not seem to be adding value to the team or department. Running a meeting in this fashion does take a bit longer (probably up to 25 - 35% longer) however the benefits outweigh the cost.

Another way to run an agile team meeting is to do away with a formal agenda. The chairperson (departmental or team leader) opens up and tells the team what their issues, concerns and achievements are. Then they open up the floor so that others can contributes and share their plans, concerns, achievements etc... I’ve been in teams where this method has been used and over time it has produced good results.

Team morale is kept high as people value agile meetings as a place where concerns can be raised, discussed and possible solutions and support given. This also has the added benefit in that the chairperson (departmental or team leader) gets to know what individual members of their team really think (people talk more freely when they are relaxed and not time boxed) and an understanding of the true concerns and issues that the department/team may be facing – as opposed to a polished presented one-liner that makes them look good.

I worked with one MD several years ago who calculated the cost (based on everybody's, hourly rate) of our weekly team meetings. OK it had the effect that we become more concise with our comments and therefore kept the meeting as short as possible. However the MD didn’t really know what was going on in the various departments in the company.

To get a better return on investment (ROI) out of meetings takes the initial investment of time, that will give you the scope to chair in an agile way. Agile meetings gives the team members time to talk freely – this gives you the ability to really get to the bottom of what is happening. To get concise to the point status of a project adopt a daily sprint meeting (10 to 15 minutes max) the combination of the two (sprint meetings every day and agile meeting every week or two) will help you run any team and or project in an effective way – insuring that you get the best of both worlds: timely reports and a grasp of the real concerns the department/team are facing - the ultimate result being a better ROI from your team.

See also Product Management Productivity Tip #3: Master Meetings


  1. Please stop this Agile nonsense!

  2. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

    Agile Project Management