You can connect that with your app, right?
07 Mar 2023 - Frans Vanhaelewijck
This is the story of how we came up with the idea of async meetings and how we tested it before writing any lines of code.
It Always Starts With a Simple Question
It seemed like a straightforward question. We were 18 months into this project, delivering configurable patient dialogues for a large hospital chain. Our software engaged with patients to learn more about their recovery. One parameter that came back frequently was measuring temperature. Any temperature rise could signal an infection. Being able to replace manual temperature registration with an automated one would be a great feature, and yes, that registration should be “connected” with the app.
That Afternoon, Back With the Team
I knew there was no urgency to answer this question. However, it was one of those “if you don’t solve it soon, it will come back to haunt you” types. The only way to get an answer was to talk to Jeff and Luc. They had already done similar things, and together they knew enough about our iOS and Android native apps.
Yet, looking at the many urgent topics on the current sprint, I couldn’t justify setting up a meeting with them. So I assumed it was the right time to start a little experiment. I had been playing with that idea for some months.
Dear Team, Let’s Try Something New
Setting up the shared Google Doc took only 45 minutes or so. The introduction to the Google Doc summarized briefly that I had some difficult, important but not urgent questions from Mr. Prospect. And that I valued, no, that I needed, their input to formulate an answer.
I added a few possible scenarios on how we could answer, exploring short-term versus long-term, in-depth solutions versus just an add-on type, and whether it should be part of the product or packaged as a project add-on. I also added how it matched with some of the high-level roadmap principles we had agreed to.
The concierge model is a method of testing new product ideas by manually providing the service to customers. This allows for quick and inexpensive testing of the idea before investing in building out the product. It involves close communication with the customers to gather feedback and iterate on the idea.
The team would have an asynchronous meeting over several days. I played the concierge and closely followed up on any updates to the Google Doc and added comments or clarifications where needed.
The Highlights of the Day
In the evening, I summarized all comments of that day and sent it out in an email to the team. For good measure, I added a reminder on the due dates.
A mere five workdays after we started, we reached a conclusion on:
- How to approach the request
- The high-level solution
- The steps to take once the project would start
By the Way, What Did You Think of This Async Thing?
After we concluded the official content of the meeting, I wanted to get feedback on this new thing we tried. The feedback was so positive that we agreed to do more of these meetings where it was appropriate. Interestingly enough, one of the team members asked which tool I was using to do the async meeting admin like sending out the daily digest and reminders.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Besides the good feedback, we learned a number of not-so-good and even one ugly truth about async meetings:
- First, the bad news. Everyone has been in meetings. No worse, everyone has been in useless meetings. As a result, everyone has opinions about meetings. So the suggestions to improve are rampant.
- The ugliest truth is that some people will simply not be able to do a mental mind shift from physical one-hour meetings with the team to a fully asynchronous one. We had a few meetings where the team lead of services could simply not be persuaded to try out this new thing.
Today I Learned
Proposing a dramatically new way of organizing work in any organization for such an important tool as a meeting is, of course, not a small task. Even before we started, we knew that this would not work for the majority of teams and organizations. So instead of trying to be a solution for everyone, we formulated a set of strong opinions that lie at the basis of many of our product features.
We believe that for teams and team leaders who want to improve their focus time and who want to work on meetings when and for how long they want, we have created a solution that may potentially save them a lot of time, make them more productive, and create a better work environment.
Go to NoFaceMeeting.com to try it out.