The main purpose of a meeting is to make sure that information and energy can flow more effectively and efficiently. We do it together, either by sharing information, creating stuff or making decisions. Exactly how a meeting is designed is less important than making sure that you don't mix everything into one big blur. We want to avoid a scenario where no one is responsible for invitation, there is no facilitation to move forward, we have no clear agenda and no meeting structure to help us know if we are supposed to share information, create stuff or make decisions. There are many different types of meetings – four of the most basic ones are grouped into:
(e.g. Sharing, Advice, Q&As, following up on evaluation)
Why? Transparency and collective understanding
(e.g. Execution, Proposals, Design)
Why? Prepare for governance and/or create solutions
Do practical things
(i.e. Decision making)
Why? Make decisions
Consent, not consensus
Use backlog and agenda
(e.g. Retros, Reviews)
Why? Collective learning
Evaluate roles, agreements
Evaluate performance, KPIs
Share achievements and challenges
These four basic types of meetings can be combined into one or several meetings depending on the task at hand. Strive to keep it short and to the point and don't get stuck in endless discussions – that is not practicing self-government. A typical meeting might look something like this:
Opening round: We check in so that everyone can be show up more fully at work, be more whole. A good check in practice invites everyone to share something that: is important right now, a personal value they are focusing on, perhaps something they are grateful for, or their expectations for the meeting.
Administrative matters: We prioritise and consent to the agenda, decide when and how to meet next, and make sure that there are roles selected (facilitator, logbook keeper and meeting secretary are the most important – see below for roles and how to select them). If you're short on time, now is also a good idea to time-box the agenda so that you put the most energy where it's needed. It's also recommended to start the meeting with showing the primary driver so that everyone knows what we are working towards.
Information: We go through and share important information agenda items, inviting for questions so that everyone has the same picture. No arguments or decisions! Only questions and listening. If you need to decide about something, put it on the governance backlog. Only if the decision is small and likely to pass, do a quick consent round (explained below). If the meeting gets stuck, it's the facilitator's responsibility to move the process forward.
Operations: This is all about creating and doing together. It could either be about creating a proposal, prioritise tensions and/or drivers, or designing a project or document. Doing stuff always requires smaller decisions along the way, which is fine. If we need to make important decisions or if there's something we don't agree on, we put it on the governance backlog. Again, the meeting facilitator moves the process forward.
Governance: Decision time! If we've been good at doing things properly thus far, this is usually a quick exercise. We can only make decisions if there are clear and/or relevant proposals. If a proposal is not considered clear and/or relevant, it goes back to the drawing table. Each proposal is presented, followed by a round of questions. This is no time for argument, but time to understand. Optionally, you may have a round of everyone in turn very briefly sharing how they feel about the proposal (beware of getting caught in the argument trap). The facilitator asks if we're ready to make a decision and if so, everyone now gets to vote (explained below). When you have agreement – celebrate!
Evaluation: Make sure to finish ahead of schedule so that you have some time to evaluate the meeting afterwards. What went well? What do we want to do differently the next time we meet? Then follow up on that in the beginning of the next meeting. Lastly, make sure everyone knows when to meet next and who is responsible for what.
Final note: Nothing is linear, and you don't "have to" do anything. The above process is a proven concept, but if your meeting would benefit from another meeting design, go ahead! If a certain governance decision would benefit from a quick information sharing and operations right before a decision, also go ahead with that. The more proficient you become in self-governance, the more you can break the rules. But don't break them before you have integrated them.