Struggling with too many pointless meetings? Learn how to find the ideal recurring meeting frequency to keep your team aligned yet focused. Tips to build a smart meeting cadence.
Meetings are a necessary part of any workplace. When run effectively, meetings can align teams, drive important decisions, solve problems, generate ideas, and strengthen relationships. However, poorly run or excessive meetings waste time and resources while too few meetings can cause misalignment, lack of coordination, and weakened team cohesion.
Finding the optimal meeting cadence - how frequently you hold recurring team meetings - is key to unlocking productivity and innovation. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore how to determine the ideal meeting frequency for your team's needs.
What Factors Should You Consider When Deciding on a Meeting Cadence?
There are several key factors to consider when evaluating the right cadence for your team meetings:
Larger teams generally require more frequent meetings to ensure proper alignment. Daily standups are common for big product teams. Smaller teams may only need weekly syncs. Consider what's necessary to keep your specific team in sync.
Co-located teams can get away with fewer meetings thanks to organic, in-person interactions. Remote or hybrid teams will likely need more frequent scheduled touchpoints to prevent miscommunications and maintain connections.
Mature, established teams with little turnover may only need occasional meetings to stay aligned. New teams or those with many new members require more frequent meetings as people get to know each other and build trust.
Independent workers who rarely collaborate may need fewer meetings. But interdependent teams who rely heavily on each other's work will likely require more frequent syncs to coordinate hand-offs.
Early stage projects often kickoff with frequent meetings to frame the work and get alignment. For heads-down execution phases, fewer meetings may be needed. Late stage projects may ramp up meetings again for status checks and go-live prep.
Strategic planning teams may only need monthly or quarterly meetings. But agile feature teams doing hands-on collaborative work often require weekly or even daily touchpoints.
Hands-off leaders may be comfortable with bi-weekly or monthly meetings. But highly involved managers who want frequent detailed updates will likely expect weekly team meetings.
Analyzing Your Current Meeting Cadence
Before determining changes, objectively analyze your team's current meetings:
- Which meetings bring the most value? Which feel like a waste of time?
- Are there meetings with unclear outcomes or no agenda?
- Are recurring meetings providing new value each time?
- Are there redundant meetings that could be combined or eliminated?
- Are people missing critical meetings they should attend?
- Do meeting times conflict with focused work blocks?
Collect Team Member Feedback
Anonymous team surveys can provide candid insights into how your team feels about the current meeting cadence. Ask:
- How many meetings per week feels appropriate?
- Which meetings feel too frequent or repetitive?
- What meetings are the highest/lowest value?
- What regular meetings could be improved or eliminated?
Establishing Meeting Guidelines
Create guidelines specifying the purpose, frequency, length, and rules of engagement for each recurring meeting. For example:
- Daily standups should be 15 minutes max
- Sprint planning happens weekly for 2 hours
- Retrospectives are monthly for 1.5 hours
- One-on-ones are 30 minutes weekly
Consider Reducing Meeting Frequency
If meetings feel excessive, start by reducing their frequency across the board. For example, cut recurring meetings back to every other week. Monitor if critical alignment still occurs. You can gradually increase again if needed.
Require Mandatory Meeting-Free Time
Block off set times when no meetings can be scheduled. For example, Monday 9am-12pm and Friday afternoons. This ensures people have uninterrupted focus time for heads-down work.
Explore Asynchronous Alternatives
For some recurring informational meetings, asynchronous communication may serve the team just as well or better:
- Email newsletters or memos
- Recorded video updates
- Knowledge management wikis
- Chat rooms or messaging channels
Experiment with Meeting-Free Days
Occasionally try a full meeting-free day and see if critical work still gets accomplished without syncs. Many teams realize just how much can get done with large blocks of uninterrupted focus time.
Enforce Small Meeting Sizes
Only mandatory attendees should join meetings. Some tactics:
- Review whether everyone needs to be there
- Split into smaller subgroups as needed
- Allow people to rotate or join only for relevant portions
Require Clear Agendas
All meetings should have a defined purpose, desired outcomes, and agenda circulated beforehand. Without an agenda, meetings easily stray off course.
Stop Extending Meetings
Respect people's time by ending meetings at the scheduled time, not just whenever they organically wrap up. Enforce the timed agenda.
Evaluate After Each Meeting
Do a quick roundtable:
- Did we achieve the desired outcomes?
- Was the right information shared with the right people?
- Could this meeting be improved or achieved through other means?
Keep Iterating Based on Learnings
Continuously refine your team's meeting cadence based on feedback and experience. There is no one size fits all perfect meeting schedule. Optimize based on your team's needs.
Common Meeting Cadences for Different Team Interactions
While optimal meeting frequency depends on your team's unique needs, some rough guidelines per meeting type:
CADENCE: Weekly or biweekly
One-on-ones drive progress, development, and relationship building between managers and direct reports. Most teams hold them weekly for 30-60 minutes.
Short daily standups sync up teams on blockers and plans. Limit to 15 minutes and standing to keep them quick.
CADENCE: Weekly or biweekly
Planning meetings at the start of each sprint allow agile teams to break down stories and assign work.
CADENCE: Weekly or biweekly
Review what was accomplished in the past sprint and demonstrate completed work to stakeholders.
Retros are essential for continuous improvement. Teams reflect on what's working and what to change.
CADENCE: Weekly or biweekly
Recurring meetings to cascade information down to department members and provide visibility up to leadership.
CADENCE: Once per project
Launch projects by aligning on vision, scope, roles, and next steps.
Project Status Updates
CADENCE: Weekly or biweekly
Regular status meetings keep projects on track and visible. Cadence depends on pace of work.
CADENCE: End of each project
Look back on what worked well and what could improve for next time.
All Hands Meetings
Company-wide meetings to share updates and build culture. Keep high level and inspirational.
Setting Expectations for Meeting Etiquette
For meetings to stay on track, set expectations upfront for engagement protocols:
- Come prepared by reviewing pre-reads
- Arrive on time and stay for the full meeting
- Stay focused and avoid multitasking
- Participate actively when called upon
- Listen attentively to other speakers
- Speak constructively and respectfully
- Allow others time to share ideas before responding
- Avoid side conversations and tangents
- Summarize action items and next steps before closing
Following healthy meeting norms will keep your team synced, engaged, and focused on achieving outcomes efficiently.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Setting a Meeting Cadence
As you work to find the right meeting cadence for your team, keep an eye out for these common missteps:
Not matching cadence to meeting purpose
The frequency should align with the purpose. Daily standups give status updates. Quarterly reviews are for strategy. Don't mismatch meeting types and cadence.
Too many meetings
More meetings don't equal increased alignment. Only hold recurring meetings that provide clear value. Reduce or combine those that feel redundant or wasteful.
No meeting-free time
Ensure calendars have blank space for focused individual work. Avoid scheduling over lunch or late in the day. Protect makers' schedules.
Lack of clear agendas
Recurring meetings should have a consistent, well-defined purpose and structure. Without agendas, they easily waste time and go off track.
No participant guidelines
Set expectations upfront for engagement etiquette like avoiding multitasking, listening actively, and staying on topic.
Ignoring team feedback
Regularly collect team insights on current meetings to detect pain points and continuously improve your cadence.
Avoid dictating an overly prescriptive, rigid schedule. Leave room for organic meetings as needed.
Cadence doesn't match stage
You may need more meetings for kicking off new projects and fewer during heads-down execution phases. Adjust accordingly.
One size fits all approach
Teams have different needs based on size, work style, maturity level, etc. Cadence should align with a team's unique situation.
Not regularly reviewing cadence
As team needs evolve, reassess the right meeting frequency. Don't just set and forget the cadence.
Tips for Running Effective Recurring Meetings
Once you've set a healthy meeting cadence, focus on optimizing the meetings themselves:
Circulate a clear agenda
Set expectations upfront by distributing the agenda with meeting invite. List topics, presenters, and desired outcomes.
Share material for review ahead of time so participants can come informed and ready to engage.
Only mandatory attendees should join to avoid overcrowding. Allow people to cycle in and out if needed.
Assign a facilitator
Appoint someone to keep the conversation focused on agenda topics and moving forward productively.
Allot timed slots for each agenda item to stay on track. Manage time tightly.
Clarify next steps before closing
Always recap decisions, action items, and next steps before adjourning. Confirm owners and deadlines.
Rate meeting effectiveness
At the end ask participants to anonymously rate the meeting for insights on improvement areas.
Follow-up with notes
Send meeting notes to recap decisions, to-dos, and highlights for those who may have missed it.
Optimize based on feedback
Collect ongoing feedback via surveys and ratings to iteratively improve each recurring meeting.
Sample Meeting Cadences by Team
Here are some examples of effective recurring meeting cadences for different types of teams:
- Daily standup - 15 minutes
- Sprint planning - 2 hours weekly
- Sprint demo - 1 hour biweekly
- Retro - 1 hour monthly
- 1:1s - 30-60 minutes biweekly
- Team standup - 15 minutes weekly
- Campaign review - 1 hour weekly
- Creative brainstorm - 1 hour biweekly
- 1:1s - 30 minutes biweekly
- Team lunch - 1 hour monthly
Executive Leadership Team
- Standup - 15 minutes weekly
- Strategy review - 2 hours quarterly
- All hands - 1 hour quarterly
- 1:1s - 60 minutes monthly
- Offsite - 2 days annually
- Morning huddle - 10 minutes daily
- Pipeline review - 30 minutes weekly
- Coaching best practices - 1 hour biweekly
- 1:1s - 30 minutes weekly
- Win reviews - 1 hour quarterly
Key Takeaways for Crafting Your Team's Optimal Meeting Cadence
- Match recurring meeting frequency to the team's unique needs
- Avoid wasting time with unnecessary meetings that lack clear value
- Collect feedback from team members to identify pain points
- Enforce mandatory focus time by protecting calendars
- Set expectations upfront with guidelines for each meeting type
- Explore asynchronous alternatives when meetings aren't critical
- Continuously optimize based on learnings and team sentiment
- Run efficient meetings by sticking to agendas, timeboxes, and next steps
With an intentional, well-crafted meeting cadence, you can keep your team aligned and engaged while still leaving room for heads-down individual work. Getting the cadence right takes effort but is well worth it in boosting productivity, innovation, and team morale. What steps will you take today to start optimizing your team's meeting rhythm?