People often think agile entails too many meetings. I’ve even heard product owners say sprint kickoffs are a waste of time because they “take away from doing real work.” Teams should stop talking and start coding, right?

This complaint has nothing to do with the number of meetings, but rather the way meetings are run. Here are five tips to better run your agile meetings.

Have a Purpose

It seems silly to even mention this, but meetings sometimes don’t have a clear objective. Without an explicit purpose—that everyone understands—we waste valuable time. Even short meetings, including daily standups and retrospectives, are susceptible to this problem. (If you don’t believe me, go ask your team what they think the goals are for these meetings.)

The easiest ways to make sure everyone is on the same page about a meeting is to state the purpose in the meeting invitations and restate it at the beginning of each meeting.

Start and Stop on Time

Nothing wastes more time than waiting for someone who is late. Ten people waiting for fifteen minutes equals two and a half hours of lost productivity—no sprint can afford a hit like that.

Regardless of whether everyone is there, start your meetings on time. Don’t reinforce bad behavior by restarting a meeting when someone new shows up. If you want to further enforce punctuality, start a “Late Fund” that charges people a dollar when they’re tardy.

Because we start meetings on time, we also need to stop them on time. Timeboxing is a great way to add urgency to an activity, and meetings are no different.

Stay on Point

Keeping meetings on point is critical to making them productive. Watch out for conversations that only involve two people, as they are often discussions best had elsewhere. Everyone in the room is responsible for keeping a meeting on task and should feel empowered to redirect an unfocused discussion.

Have a Follow-up Process

Action items that come out of meetings should be assigned to a single person and tracked by the team as part of your agile process. Having multiple people responsible for an action item often means the item is too vague and should be split in two. Also document the decisions so everyone remembers what was agreed upon. Redeciding things later is a huge time sink.

Avoid Unnecessary Meetings

Sometimes the best meetings are the ones that never happen. New agile teams often do everything together because they think that’s what agile expects, but nothing could be further from the truth. Agile is all about removing waste from the software process, and unnecessary meetings are wasteful.

Use team meetings to make decisions that impact the entire team, when brainstorming, or to share project-wide information. Use pairing or small group gatherings when collaborating about individual user stories or researching new ideas. Think hard about each meeting you are invited to and whether you really need to be there.

Keeping your meetings agile will make a big difference in your productivity.

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