It's Monday morning and you're starting your work week. Most people get right to answering emails, attending meetings, or dealing with that "hot" issue that simply must be addressed.
But jumping right into the flow is rarely the most valuable or productive thing to do. Remember the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"What is important is seldom urgent."
The most productive teams and individuals I work with plan out their weeks. This may happen first thing Monday morning or it may happen midweek with planning cycles running Wednesday to Wednesday.
But it always happens.
This cadence of weekly planning sessions can be both an individual and an organizational habit. It's important to make it a habit because we know from research that much, if not most, of what we do each day is reflexive reaction to stimuli.
In other words, a habit. Therefore, building good habits is essential to success.
The weekly planning meeting is one of the most valuable habits individuals and teams can build. This is called an action meeting, and here's how to run one.
Give everybody a moment to answer the question: "What has your attention?"
Often we walk into meetings basking in the glow of a weekend or stressed about getting kids to school or planning for braces.
Having each person in the meeting quickly answer this question allows the team to grow empathy for each other and allows the person speaking to set aside any pressing issues at the top of his or her mind.
Each team should be tracking a few simple metrics that indicate the health of their mission.
Take a few minutes to review a Google Spreadsheet, or other tool, where you track these. Metrics can be things like: number of unique visitors to a website, number of features released, number of stakeholders contacted, etc.
Keep them simple, focused and -- at this point of the meeting -- don't problem solve. Just share info.
Project status updates.
Next, have project owners review the status of the projects they own.
This should be a short list -- this is happening each week so there's not enough time to have 100 projects in flight. If nothing was done on a project, communicate this, but again, no problem solving or judgment from the group.
If you want to discuss a project, add it to the triage items list. That's our next step.
Add triage items.
At this point, we ask all team members to add items that they feel need attention to a triage list.
The triage list likely comes pre-populated as well, as we also ask team members to add items to it during the week. Items can be suggestions for new projects, concerns about the product, tensions with team processes, or anything else someone deems important.
Process triage items.
Go through items one by one and talk to the person who added it until he or she answered the question "Did you get what you need?" with a yes. Items can be dealt with quickly in the moment, deleted, turned into projects, meetings, or made into tasks to be dealt with later.
Finally, go around the room once more and ask each individual to offer a quick reflection on the meeting. This, once again, helps increase team empathy and also provides feedback for continuous improvement.
That's it. The whole meeting should take about half an hour and once you're in the rhythm of it, facilitation becomes quite easy, because people stay on task.
Committing to weekly action meetings works best when a few other practices and tools are in place. I'll cover these in other columns, so stay tuned.
Best of luck and please comment with any questions or experiences you'd like to share.