Dead-Letter Meetings

Imagine a “sprint demo,” that meeting that’s intended to review what the team has completed and get acceptance. What the players are doing is rushing through it, asking if any glitch or mismatch is cause enough to reject the task as completed.

Now picture a planning session where estimations are done after the fact to retrofit into the sprint what management wanted to commit to regardless. Or a retrospective where the root causes of issues are never discussed as the team doesn’t feel enough ownership or confidence to speak up about things outside of their comfort zones.

It’s easy for the real sense behind the process to erode as your company grows and culture adapts, and to eventually end up with a bunch of people sitting in these dead-letter meetings, that no longer accomplish their original intention. Don’t get me started on how useless most daily/stand-up meetings have become.

A proper process is crucial to an effective organization and autonomous teams, yet when you let things deteriorate to the point where your team is cargo-culting it, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time. You cannot simply call it agile if it’s not. You cannot expect the meeting’s name to solve everything.

And worse of all, you have to realize that when the team endures a dysfunctional process for too long, it becomes etched into the culture and the disrespect and lack of confidence it creates are almost impossible to root out.

Even small teams often waste as much as 10-15% of their people’s time on the useless process. Don’t let your team slowly drown.