Meeting manifesto – Robin Say explains how to get the most out of meetings

Robin Say

I’ve worked in the insurance industry for fourteen years. And if you’re still reading this after that last sentence then thank you.

But today I’d like to discuss an issue that faces many people like you and I, and tell you how we are trying to tackle it here at RSA. If you can learn from what we’ve done, it might help you become more productive or just make you and your team happier.

This issue is meetings. Unproductive, large, cumbersome meetings – and how they can totally trash the most productive parts of any worker’s day.

Here in RSA Digital we love going along and talking to people, but we want to ensure our meetings are productive – and avoid unclear agendas, waffle, and no clear outcomes.

So our team decided to use meetings as a UX challenge. How could we ensure that if a meeting is essential, that it’s a good experience for all? We wanted people to come away with a feeling that the time was used well.
We came up with a mantra which we snappily titled TATRA, and we now apply it to our meetings. Please stay with me…

TATRA stands for:

T urn up on time
A genda
T imeline
R ecord actions
A ssign owners

As you’d expect applying this simple mantra to all meetings meant we started, and still see, a greater focus on deliverables from each meeting. It gives us a warm fuzzy feeling that we haven’t just lost an hour that we’ll never get back.

That’s great I hear you say – but what about avoiding meetings altogether?
Good thinking.

The next thing we trialled at RSA was moving all meetings to the afternoon (heavy caveat here of ‘where possible’) for a two week trial period.   Why? Because studies have suggested that people feel they are most productive in the morning (check this randomly googled poll as evidence). It’s also great to get people’s heads down when they’re at their most alert. That way we could use our afternoon meetings as the energiser to liven people up and prevent that post-lunch slump.

We did this for our scrum team and saw a reduction in stress levels of team members and an increase in the burndown rate of stories from our Project Manager.

Next we plan to embed our thinking to the wider team. But it’s a challenge we’re still facing so I’ll report back on this one in the future (if I haven’t bored you to death by now)!

Robin Say is Head of UX at RSA Digital. He also boasts a BSc in Business Studies and a 50m swimming badge.