The Status Meeting

The phone rings and your concentration is broken. As you pick up the phone you glance quickly at the watch, only to realize you have to end this call quickly. You answer the call, get out of your chair and end the call in one big move. You had to, because it is time for a team meeting. Again. “Well, lets get this over with”, you think to yourself.

As you arrive to the meeting you realize that you have not really prepared for this. “It doesn’t matter, no one else does anyhow”.

– “Hi all and welcome” says Bob, the facilitator of the meeting. “No time to waste”.
– “So, what’s happening … you go first Sarah”
– “Well, I’ve been working on the server API. I’ve added support for a 3rd party message queue”
– “OK, good. How about you Gregory? … Greg … GREG!”
– “Huh … oh, uuuh. Well, it’s the same as always. You know. The threading of long running actions.”
– “Right, well, if you need any help, just let me know and I’ll see that we can do. Let’s move on.”
– “Is it me” says Melissa
– “YES!” says Greg and Sarah almost instantly, in unison.
– “I … I’ve been … I’m sort of done. I need something new to work on”
– “Great” says Bob, “I’ll give you a new task right after this meeting then”

Everybody is getting ready to or are already leaving as Bob manages to blurt out a “Alright-meeting -adjourned-Don’t forget-next meeting-Same place-same time … see ya”.


Feel at all familiar? Personally, I have been to far too many of these kinds of meetings. They happen all the time and come in a whole lot of different shapes. Daily stand ups, bi-weekly meetings, 1-on-1s with your boss and more. The thing they all have in common is the one-way communication. In this particular meeting, I noticed a few more things though.

* No one was very well prepared
* The facilitator, Bob, seems to be the proxy for all important decisions
* No one is offering help, but Bob, as mentioned above.
* The “status report”-like behavior. Everyone is reporting to Bob.

And there might be more.

The most important issue however is the ‘status report’-like behavior. You could do this meeting equally well with CD-ROMs. Hand in a text-file written on a CD for everyone to read. Fire and forget. No more wasting everybody’s time.

Status meetings are not funny and does not have a climate open to questions nor discussions, which is very important if you want the participants to get something out of the meeting.

If you are a meeting facilitator or a bored participant who have been to one to many of these kinds of meetings and want more productive ones. Here are a few hands on and simple tips:

As a facilitator

  • Make sure people are not reporting to you. Avoid long eye contact by looking at the floor for instance. If they appear to speak to you directly.
  • Give everybody a chance to prepare
  • Help extracting options instead of giving direct advice
  • Do not offer help instantly, let the team figure out how to solve their own problems
  • Break up discussions that are too detailed into a new meeting. Only involving the interested parties

As a participant

  • Prepare yourself. What have you achieved. What do you need help with. What do you want to achieve
  • Listen to your team buddies. What are they not saying is more important that what they are saying
  • Do not steal the meeting by talking endlessly about your own problems
  • Do not go into detailed discussions about things that concern less than 3 people

Finally, here are three popular questions one should ask oneself during a meeting

  • What have I achieved since the last time we saw each other
  • What do I want to achieve until the next time
  • What might stop me

About Ola Ellnestam

Agile Coach, Systems developer, Agile Practitioner and father of three.

One response »

  1. jack says:

    nice coaching advices , thx

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