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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

6 Best Practices for Productive Status Meetings
July 1, 2022

If you are part of a busy team you probably attend regular status meetings over the course of your sprints, or maybe even daily. When done right, these kinds of meetings keep everyone up to speed on operations and goals, track progress and identify blockers for current development projects, and facilitate decision-making to improve performance. Status meetings are some of the most common types of meetings you’ll see on a work calendar, and are usually well-intended to be productive check-ins for teams. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always make them a good use of everyone’s valuable (and limited) time.

Meetings have increased almost 70% across the board since the beginning of 2020. The result? Today’s workers spend over half their standard work week in meetings. That’s a whopping 21.5 hours for just the average person, with the busiest professionals (who attend 15+ meetings a week) clocking 32.9 hours – a staggering 82.25% of their work week. 

But the reality is workers simply don’t have enough time to accommodate that many meetings and also get all their task work done. For perspective, individual contributors complete only 53.5% of their planned tasks every week, and the average manager spends just 9.2 hours a week on actually productive task work. So how do organizations avoid unproductive status meetings from overtaking busy employees’ calendars and pulling them from other important responsibilities?

As teams work to optimize performance and productivity, especially in the era of remote and hybrid work setups – addressing the true cost of pointless meetings (and reviewing company meeting practices accordingly) is crucial. In this blog post we’re going to look at 6 types of status meetings, and go over best practices to get the most out of them.

What are status meetings?

You probably have them scattered throughout your calendar, but what exactly are status meetings? Status meetings are scheduled to review key projects, customers, the development process, employees and reliability issues, and to monitor and inspect work across the company – essentially covering anything relevant to operations or procedures. These can be scheduled ad hoc or be recurring events. When done right, status meetings can deliver great benefits to the entire team. 

Top benefits of status meetings:

  • Track progress on in-flight tasks.
  • Share information across departments.
  • Recognize milestone achievements.
  • Identify and address issues and blockers.
  • Build accountability and transparency.
  • Reinforce key points and expectations.
  • Realign operations with goal objectives.
  • Set clear action items to move forward with.

Formally getting the team together for regular status meetings can be a productive way to keep everyone connected and on track. But on the flip side these types of meetings also bring challenges that, if left unaddressed, can end up wasting employee time better prioritized towards high-value task work. 

Challenges of status meetings:

  • Lacking clear objectives or agenda.
  • Ineffective facilitation or moderation.
  • Ill-preparedness from team and leadership.
  • Repetitive or duplicate meetings.
  • Too many attendees for productive discussion.
  • Unbalanced contribution from the group.
  • Running over due to out-of-scope tangents.
  • Not developing clear action items.

Professionals are already spread thin with their time every week, so understanding the specific purpose of different status meetings is essential to ensuring they’re being implemented effectively. If you do have important status meetings that need to stay on the calendar, check out AI tools like Smart Meetings so you can at least automatically find the best time for everyone in the group so your team can stay flexible for new opportunities and priority changes.

Let’s dive into the 6 most common types of status meetings you’ll find scheduled across product teams, with tips to maximize productivity. 

1. Project status meeting - where are we at with this?

Project status meetings are recurring and used to review progress on key product initiatives (or often the top 3-5 initiatives), dive deep into the details, and unblock teams working towards their goal. With any major project, there’s always going to be an opportunity cost with every approach, and these meetings discuss the hard topics of resourcing tradeoffs and decisions needed to best execute the project. Typically, product and engineering representatives for the relevant project(s), executive stakeholders, program managers or operations personnel are present for these meetings.

Best practices for project status meetings 

The 8-18-1800 rule is a guideline for attendee numbers based on meeting objectives. For meetings that intend to solve a problem or make a decision, it is recommended to keep the group to no more than 8 people. The goal is to keep these meetings agile and go in with a targeted discussion that doesn’t try to boil the whole ocean. Focus on clear objectives, limiting attendees to direct contributors, and actively managing the meeting to stay in scope so everyone walks away from the session with clear action items.

2. Team-wide status meeting - what’s everyone up to?

As one of the notoriously most dreaded meetings on the calendar – team-wide status meetings are recurring events where a typically large group of people from the organization get together to share general status updates. These meetings tend to run long because they facilitate many shares and cover a lot of different topics. Even though each person's status update is expected to be kept very short with only high-level details, these meetings often run over with most participants just ‘listening’ for a lot of the time.

Best practices for generalized/org-wide status meetings 

If the purpose of a meeting is to just provide updates, and everyone attending the meeting will be sharing – the 8-18-1800 rule suggests limiting the number of participants to no more than 18 to keep it productive. Try narrowing down very large status update meeting groups to relevant departments, or by inviting just one representative for every department. A moderator should also be assigned to manage the meeting and keep it on track and on time. 

If your team’s calendar is plagued with status meetings, consider replacing them with an asynchronous communication approach like weekly status reports. These reports allow you and your team to log your activities, questions, and comments in an easy template that can be shared and reviewed at everyone’s convenience – limiting unproductive meeting time that would have otherwise cut into team members’ deep work sessions, for example.

3. Deal/customer review meeting - let’s inspect the pipeline

This meeting type is organized to review the top deals in the pipeline, discuss any urgent account issues, and make decisions on customer requests. Deal or customer review meetings are used to align product and engineering management to ensure everyone is on the same page. Usually these meetings are dedicated to a single large account, where the sales team on that account, the sales executive, the product executive, and any leads from impacted engineering teams are present. The review meeting could also be for a number of large accounts, where you would typically find all product leads and sales leads in attendance.

Best practices for deal & customer review meetings

Deal and customer review meetings can quickly turn into team-wide status meetings when ineffectively managed, so make sure to prepare a clear agenda beforehand of all key points to discuss across accounts. That way you can use everyone’s meeting time to productively investigate any issues and focus on developing decisions. 

4. Demo meeting - show me what you’ve worked on

This is the fun meeting that everyone looks forward to on a product team - as long as everything's running smoothly and is properly prepared! Demo meetings are used to showcase and review everything that was shipped to production that sprint. These recurring discussions help align stakeholders to product development, offer a venue for feedback, highlight milestone achievements, and discuss trade-offs made for these efforts. You’ll find the engineering team, product manager, cross-functional stakeholders, and program manager or operations personnel at a sprint demo meeting.

Best practices for demo meetings

The engineering manager or team lead should have a clear overview of what's going to be demoed, facilitate balanced contribution from all participants throughout the meeting, and try to make sure conflicts between teammates are resolved beforehand. Demo meetings are known to spark some interesting discussions, but it’s also important to be respectful of everyone's time in larger meeting groups. To avoid a demo meeting turning into a brainstorming session for a few attendees – the engineering manager or project manager should know when to take a conversation that’s getting too deep into the weeds into a breakout group or offline.

5. Retrospective meeting - how did that go?

Retrospective meetings are scheduled to review how something went. These meetings can be called ad hoc to investigate a specific event like the success of a product launch or to review an issue that went wrong, where you might need to conduct a postmortem for major outages or long-running projects. Retrospective meetings can also be routine events for teams to look back on how the week or sprint went, and identify what could have gone better. The meeting group will reflect on what worked and what didn’t, discuss any pertaining issues, gather feedback, and ultimately decide on next steps and future protocol. You’ll find all the individuals involved in the project or outage at the meeting, along with the facilitator.

Best practices for retrospective meetings

Successful retrospective meetings are amazing learning opportunities and should try to be kept agile and collaborative. Ideally these meetings will reflect what went well, and objectively assess what didn’t go so well without assigning blame – commonly known as blameless retrospectives or blameless postmortems. In order to moderate these sometimes tough but very important conversations, you might want to consider a mediating facilitator who is neutral to the discussion. It can also be helpful to use a standard template (like these sprint retrospective template examples) for your retros so that the critical questions are asked routinely. This can help create a foundation for successful conversation on more complicated incidents down the line. And don’t forget to call out the positives too!

6. People review meeting - how’s everyone doing?

The objective of people review meetings is to connect HR and operations with how everyone is doing within the organization. In a people review meeting, managers will share performance reviews which are often presented using a 9-box model or 360 reviews. They also offer feedback and their recommendations for promotions or performance improvement plans (PIPs) across the team. You’ll find all managers for a specific department, the HR and PeopleOps team, and the program manager or operations personnel present at these meetings.

Best practices for people review meetings

Review meetings require pretty significant prep on the manager's part and, while recurring, are traditionally conducted no more than a couple of times a year. Usually done on a per-department basis or even per-team basis to limit discussions from seeping out across departments – people review meetings are also best performed using a consistent approach and standardized template for each direct report, so everyone is on the same page with expectations. 

Make the most of your status meetings 🙌

The larger the organization, the more operational review meetings you’ll run across on the calendar. But all too often, status update meetings end up being an ineffective use of a team’s time because they are overscheduled and aren’t oriented around making decisions or developing action items. In order to really warrant a status meeting, it ultimately needs to be more than that to avoid wasting everyone's time in another unproductive meeting that really could have been an email.

Status meetings are health checkpoints for the organization and can be invaluable opportunities for growth across the team when executed correctly. With intentional scheduling, thorough preparation, and clear objectives for every meeting that pulls employees from important independent work – status meetings can become a productive addition to the workflow, instead of calendar events that everyone on the team dreads. 

How do you think status meetings could provide more value to busy teams? Tweet us @reclaimai to start a conversation! 

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