Runbooks   / Time Management

Create No-Meetings blocks

When to apply this runbook

Everyone needs Maker Time to focus on complex tasks. Engineers need it more than others. If your engineering culture does not organically create this quiet time, you'll notice the following signs:

  • Team members complaining about having too many meetings.
  • People bringing their laptops to meetings and working on something else - usually a desperate reaction to a bad meeting culture.
  • Projects getting delayed and/or the output of the team greatly fluctuating - especially around meeting-heavy periods like planning.

Instructions

  1. Get the numbers

    Start with an honest assessment of the meeting culture of your team.

    • Starting from the Scrum team level, measure the amount of time spent in recurring meetings that you have created as a manager.
    • Measure the amount of meetings created by the team for the team, as opposed to meetings created by other teams (ie a demand on your team's time).
    • Zoom out and do the same exercise for your parent organization.
  2. Take action

    The core of this runbook is to create and enforce "No Meetings" blocks.

    • Start with an experiment. Ask your team which half-day or day would work best to transform into a No Meetings block.
    • Pro-actively communicate with other teams and your boss: set expectations that engineers will be empowered to cancel / reject any meeting on this day. Getting this buy-in is critical for the success of the operation:)
    • Mark the No Meetings blocks through a calendar invite to the whole team. Make sure it is marked as "busy".
    • After a couple weeks, close the loop by checking that No Meetings blocks were respected and that your team feels more able to concentrate.
  3. Create a self-correcting process

    To prevent things from getting worse again:

    • Re-assess the meeting load on a regular basis
    • Create more No Meetings blocks as needed
    • Pay attention to the meeting load merely shifting to other days: ideally, No Meetings blocks should incentivize people to find other ways of communicating than long meetings - not just shifting things around!

Going further

Okay's Maker Time module automates most of this advice and enables you to stay on top of meeting load. Please reach out to us if you need help!