In High Output Management, Andy Grove describes meetings as the medium through which managerial work is performed.
The two basic managerial roles produce two basic kinds of meetings. In the first kind of meeting, called a process-oriented meeting, knowledge is shared and information is exchanged. Such meetings take place on a regularly scheduled basis. The purpose of the second kind of meeting is to solve a specific problem. Meetings of this sort, called mission-oriented, frequently produce a decision. They are ad hoc affairs, not scheduled long in advance, because they usually can’t be.
This post is a summary of formats and heuristics I've developed when deciding how to structure a meeting.
Process Oriented Meetings
There are four basic types of process-oriented meetings.
- One on One (1:1): A one-on-one meeting is a private session between a supervisor and a subordinate. It serves as the primary way to maintain their business relationship, focused on mutual teaching and information exchange. Specific problems and situations are discussed, with the supervisor imparting skills and suggesting approaches, and the subordinate offering updates and concerns. Typical cadence: biweekly
- Staff Meeting (n:n): Staff meetings are collective sessions involving a supervisor and all subordinates. It's a setting for peers to get to know each other and for the supervisor to learn from the ensuing exchanges and confrontations, giving the group visibility of ongoing issues and fostering cultural norms. Typical cadence: weekly
- All Hands (1:n): An All Hands meeting involves the entire organization or large teams, where leadership addresses all employees to share important company updates, strategic direction, and engage with the workforce at large. Typical cadence: monthly or quarterly
- Status Update (n:1): Status updates generally involve team members reporting back to a supervisor. It's a structured format for individuals to provide progress reports on their tasks, highlighting successes, challenges, and upcoming objectives. Typical cadence: weekly or biweekly
Mission oriented meetings can take many forms, but here are four common types:
- Feedback Session (1:1): A feedback session is a one-on-one meeting focused on giving or receiving feedback. It's an ad hoc meeting, typically not scheduled far in advance, aiming to address specific issues or performance discussions. The goal is clear communication and actionable outcomes, making it a key tool for personal development within the organization.
- Creative Brainstorm (n:n): Creative brainstorming sessions involve a group of people, often peers, coming together to generate ideas and solutions. They are mission-oriented as they seek to produce a tangible outcome in the form of ideas or prioritization decisions. Whoever calls the meeting is responsible for communicating the outcome or any decisions to the rest of the organization.
- Demo (1:n): A demo involves a presenter showing a product, feature, or concept to an audience, aiming to inform, persuade, or receive feedback. It's mission-oriented as it aims to achieve a specific goal such as gaining approval from a supervisor, moving to the next phase of development, or gathering insights from peers for improvement.
- Decision (n:1): Decision meetings are convened to resolve a particular issue or make a critical choice, often involving several stakeholders presenting to a decision-maker. Decision meetings are useful when a supervisor is needed to act as a tiebreaker between two peers.