prefer regular adhoc meetings

your meeting shouldn’t be recurring, when it can be adhoc.

Here are some thoughts to consider when making a recurring meeting. You can use these thoughts to consider if your meeting should actually be a ‘regular adhoc’ meeting instead.

average value

The value of the meeting is averaged across all the recurring-instances of the meeting.

In this problem we see that the entire set of recurring meetings is seen as a single entity. The sum of all value across all instances of the recurring meeting are averaged over all the instances of that recurring meeting. This means that every time there’s an instance of a recurring meeting that has no agenda, no value, or is cancelled.. your overall value is impacted, as this zero-value instance of the meeting drags the average value down.

Lowering the (average) value in this way has a negative impact on all the valuable instances of the recurring meeting.

These kinds of meetings are often used as ‘placeholders’ for time in attendees calendars. They are often planned late (or never) and have low expected value.

If we assume an example of a weekly recurring meeting, which provides value 1 in 4 times. When making any decisions on if I should attend that meeting, or the expected value I can receive, I would see the average value as the expected value. Meaning that every time the meeting exists, and is cancelled, there’s a negative impact on the total possible value of any single instance of the meeting.

until next time

The most common way to solve the problem of average value is to increase the time between each instance of the meeting. This means we are averaging our expected or received value over fewer instances, but also over a larger time period. Say we change our weekly meeting to a monthly meeting.

We now create a “wait until the next iteration” problem… Information now needs to wait. Information might have been useful now is delayed for (up to) a month.

Recency bias, and bin packing. The next problem with a longer interval is that; not all work patterns follow the same volume cycles. That is to say, this month I might have loads to bring to my recurring meeting, and next month I might have very little. The longer the time period, the less value dilution we get, but also the harder it is to guess the volume of content, or the time required. In this situation we tend to be overoptimistic, preferring not to run out of time, booking extra.

Overbooking time is a false fix, work expands to fill the time. And no matter how much content there is, we will always be either ’empty’ (no value in the recurring meeting), or ‘overflowing’, trying to fit everything into our ~x hr meeting.

finely scoped meetings

In my experience you can spot a recurring meeting, not just because it’s setup as recurring in the calendar. But also because it will have a wide scope. Take the example of ‘standup’, these meetings have an very wide scope, anything the team is working on can be brought. They are also typical of recurring meetings.

To fix the situation with recurring meetings, book adhoc:

  1. Use a finely scoped adhoc meeting, targeted at a specific topic that would otherwise be consumed by the recurring meeting.
  2. Use adhoc regularly, and invite those who need to come, not everyone who might come.
  3. Leave the invite list open, allow others that might have been on the recurring invite list to attend if they wish.