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Creating a Cultural Shift for Effective Meetings: Building a Writing Culture

Remote
Company Culture
Meetings
Internal Communication
Collaboration

10 November, 2021

Han Wang
Han Wang

Engineering Manager at Google Inc.

Han Wang, Director of Engineering at Sonder Inc., talks about adopting a writing culture for making team meetings more effective.

Poor Documentation is Risky Business

We all know the importance of communication, whether it is written or verbal. Adopting a writing culture helps in cutting down on meeting time and increases inclusivity. For instance, we had a team member who was quiet and would rarely speak up during meetings. However, after adopting a writing culture, she became more comfortable, and her ideas started to flow, which were great, and the team realized her depth and potential. When we started working remotely, we needed to schedule a lot of meetings as we couldn't interact physically to solve a problem. Unfortunately, all team members couldn't join the sessions due to their busy schedules, and everyone's productivity was taking a hit.

How to Build a Successful Writing Culture

Make It Collaborative:

 

To begin with, I started outlining the meeting agendas and proposals before meetings and encouraged them to provide feedback on collaborative docs such as Google Docs and Asana. I suggested my team write down their thoughts, and during meeting time, we would focus on these and the critical points that didn't work out.

Document the Process and Make It Accessible:

This helped in cutting down our meeting time from 45 minutes to 10 minutes. Instead of unnecessary ice-breaking and out-of-the-context talks, everyone took the time seriously and thought about the meeting content. They were much prepared to have a discussion asynchronous on the doc before the meeting. It enabled us only to have a discussion about the critical topics with a problem-solving approach during the meeting.

Encourage People to Read it:

Besides, we also encouraged everyone to read and discuss the meeting agendas beforehand. Examining the critical points and issues was our primary objective. In any case, if a team member couldn't prepare themselves before the meeting, we would spend the first 10 - 15 minutes reading the agenda designed by the organizer of the meeting. Moving on, the team could comment on the document itself to talk about the indecision points.

The team would mainly focus on the conflicts during the meeting as they already had a clear context about the agendas and outcomes.

Lessons learned

  • In the case of remote work, there is no other option but to find ways to build trust with your team. This would give them the ownership and autonomy they need, followed by making the right decisions at the right time.
  • Look for creative ways to increase focus time, and help your team members move forward.
  • Find asynchronous ways to collaborate and discuss, especially on issues that do not require meeting time, and be more flexible on rescheduling meeting time.
  • Adopting a writing approach not only increases productivity but also helps increase inclusivity. You may discover hidden talents who are uncomfortable speaking up.

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