Why so many meetings?


It was brought up on IRC and we discussed a bit in today’s meeting that having 2 - 4 meetings a week (4 is including the Sunday collaboration meeting that doesn’t happen too often lately).

I’d like to give a description of the problem I’m trying to solve with increasing the number of meetings, why I think the meetings are the right answer, and who I expect to attend, so that you can give me feedback, and suggest solutions to the problem that work better for you. Also, before you give suggestions, I’d like you to first ask yourself “how am I contributing to these problems?” I’ll try my best to answer that question as well.

The Problems

1. We have several big projects that other people rely on

We’re trying to get Discourse adopted by Mozilla as a whole, we are in charge of hosting all of the community websites that want to be hosted by Mozilla. We want to provide WPaaS and other SaaS platforms as a way to provide value to Mozilla and to present an opportunity to build people’s skills.

Problem: Each of these projects have enough work to do and topics to cover to take up an hour’s meeting on their own.

Problem: Trying to cover all of these topics in one meeting means people spend a lot of time sitting through issues that don’t apply to them.

Problem: Trying to cover all of these topics in one meeting can mean that either the meeting goes long or we don’t cover all of the pressing issues - one project with higher importance could repeatedly push out other lower priority projects

Problem: There are stakeholders for each of these projects that are not part of our team and would not come to our general project meetings

Problem: Currently we handle dealing with outside stakeholders by giving over the whole meeting to address their topics

2. There’s a lot of work to do

The wiki needs to be updated, we need to finish our inventory including updating contacts, WPaaS is pending our move away from OVH, Discourse could use more plugins. Monitoring and maintenance needs to be done.

Problem: Our pace of work needs to match our ambition for the team

Problem: We need to make sure we’re getting to our assigned action items more consistently

Problem: I have a lot of action items to review and drive people on

Problem: Driving action items doesn’t fit in a project planning meeting and can take up too much time

Problem: It is difficult for me to build out the recurring agenda with so many projects and priorities to fit into one

3. We need to start to scale

There is more than enough work for the current number of contributors. If we really want to be more effective we need to start onboarding new contributors. It is an ingrained part of our mission that we need to onboard new contributors.

Problem: We don’t have time in a general project planning meeting to onboard new people, only to welcome them

Problem: New contributors with a specific area of interest need a more focused medium to get to know the team and get involved in the project

Problem: The current format of meetings is not encouraging discussion among the existing team, let alone promoting new contributors to feel comfortable jumping in

4. Good meetings are participatory

I hate meetings where people are just there to consume. There is no point to such meetings, we have Discourse and a blog for that. Meetings should be used to get things done that are easier to get done in a meeting than via another medium.

Problem: The current format of meetings is not encouraging discussion among the existing team, let alone promoting new contributors to feel comfortable jumping in. Yes, I just repeated the last point from the previous section.

Problem: We can not fit participatory discussion and decision making about all of our projects into a single 1h meeting

Solution: More, and More Specific Meetings

1. We get more done when we schedule working sessions

This is definitely true for me and I have noticed it is true for many of you as well. We are all busy, we are all either in school, working or contributing to other projects as well as this one. Most of us do better at getting our action items done when we schedule a time to meet with others and hold each other accountable. With too many items on the agenda we can’t just stop and write that email that should have been written or make that Discourse post that should have been made.

2. I need two meetings to do my job

I need a meeting where we decide what to do, and then I need a meeting to make sure I follow up on the action items assigned so that the next time we meet we can actually move forward without having to ask people what they got done.

3. Specific projects need their own meetings

We need to be able to get more in depth and participatory around the specific projects so that we can actually make progress in the meetings. Interested contributors and stakeholders from outside of our team will get the most out of attending a project specific meeting. Project specific priorities will not get pushed off of the agenda because a higher priority project needs more attention.

This will also make it much easier for people like eg Yousef to help me drive the Discourse specific meeting, rather than trying to do it all on my own.

4. Clearer agendas

It will be easier to build out agendas with more specific meetings. It is easier to see the priorities and tasks within a specific project than it is to try to capture all priorities and all tasks. Clearer agendas will also make it easier for people, including new contributors and stakeholders, to decide if the meeting is worthwhile for them to attend.

5. Scale and onboarding

Having more, and specific meetings, will allow more people to participate on topics relating to the specific topic that interests them. Portions of these meetings could be given to onboarding a new contributor while keeping the discussion relevant to all of the other attendees. Getting a chance to interact in the meetings rather than just observe will make people feel more included.

Desired Format and Expected Attendance

1. Meetings are for working, not for information

We need to get back to using Discourse as the place you go to get informed, and meetings as the place you go to work with others to move things forward. If you feel like you have to attend the meetings to stay informed then we are not using Discourse correctly.

2. You should attend if you are “touching” the project

If you have pending action items, if you have accomplished a task, or if you need to accomplish a task related to something on the meeting’s agenda, you should attend. If not, you are of course welcome, but if you don’t attend that won’t be perceived negatively. Choose the meetings that matter to you, stay up to date with the other topics via Discourse.

3. The only person I expect to attend all of these meetings regularly is me

I am the only person that has a role in driving every aspect of the project. While mrz is still our leader and is involved in making decisions overall, he’s not involved in driving completion of action items. As I said before, there is a lot of work to be done and we need to scale. No one should be actively hacking on all projects that the team is responsible for, that is spreading people too thin and is also a symptom that we’re not scaling the way we need to be.

4. Bi-weekly?

If we have more specific meetings in theory we could make them bi-weekly, so we could have a Discourse meeting one week and at the same time slot the next week discuss Community Hosting. I would decide this with the project specific drivers.

Blockers: How I am contributing to the problem

1. I need to regularly review and drive action items

This should be a more regular action I take, not just once a week. A habit needs to start somewhere, so I need a scheduled time where I review action items. This will also be my set time to make progress on anything assigned to me that I didn’t get to at other times. I work better collaboratively so it would be great to have at least one other person join me, and even better if you have action items and join to get them done then as well, but this isn’t mandatory

2. I need to have better agendas and send them out before the meetings

Obviously people can’t decide if they are needed at a meeting if they don’t see what we are planning to talk about. Though I could use help with this, I shouldn’t be the only person touching the agenda. However, it’s still my responsibility to make sure the agendas are done, and to remind people to add to them.

3. I need to make sure I drive Discourse discussions and include them in the agendas

If we want to make sure Discourse is our main communication channel, ie, if you only follow Discourse then you will stay informed, then I need to make sure that Discourse is part of my workflow. Again with this I could use help, if everyone could make sure they are subscribed and are responding to topics that will help make Discourse more effective. It’s still my responsibility to make sure discussions and decisions from those topics are included in meetings and/or acted on.

If I think of any others I’ll add them, though I see these as the big ones.

Thanks for making it to the end!

Please share your feedback and suggestions, I’ll do what I can to act on them.

(Tom Farrow) #2

I’ve skim read this post. I’m happy with the way meetings currently work. We don’t exactly have a lot of meetings: 3 meetings per week isn’t a huge deal.

If it was easier for people, I wouldn’t be against feeding into smaller, more frequent meetings. What I don’t want is less regular - having regular meetings is needed to make sure we’re actually getting things done

My only real problem with how meetings work is how much of a pain worklife is to work with when it doesn’t fit anywhere else but a few action items every week.


Yes, I like the UI, but the fact that it doesn’t hook into anything else or remind you of your unfinished action items is a problem. I have a feeling we’ll be moving to Confluence for this now that we have the license, but we need to play with it and see what people think.