Don’t Break The Golden Rule of Meetings Just Because You’re Remote

Moving to remote means changing a lot about how a company runs. As a leader, you’ll do a combination of recreating in-person experiences remotely and generating new processes for your team. A natural byproduct of this is that a lot of processes and habits you followed in the office will become obsolete. But it’s important to not throw out every rule of running an organization just because you’re going remote. 

If you’re opting to stay remote after COVID, or just want to get through the next few months of uncertainty, it’s important to make sure you don’t break the golden rule of meetings: no more than 6 or 7 people per meeting (popularly known as the “2 Pizza Rule”). 

When you’re remote, it’s easy to ask everyone to chime into a meeting. You may even feel like you’re cultivating connections. But the reality is you’re harming your organization more than you’re helping it. Here’s why – and the benefits of holding this rule steadfast in a remote organization.

Too many cooks in the kitchen

The science behind 6-7 people maximum in a meeting is a function of connection science. If you have too many people, there will be too many interconnected relationships to make a decision. Another common phrase applies here: too many cooks in the kitchen and nothing gets done. 

If you’re worried about including everyone’s opinions or feedback in a meeting, send a poll or survey beforehand so people can make their voice heard. But the meeting itself should be limited to the decision-makers and those directly impacted by the decision (or the leader of those directly impacted, for larger organizations). 

Think about who really needs to be present

It’s easy to invite everyone to a meeting. It’s harder to think about who really needs to be there. That thought process requires clear definitions of everyone’s roles and what they are held accountable for. If you ask “who is impacted by or responsible for the decision we’re making in this meeting?” and can’t easily answer, that’s a signal that you haven’t clarified people’s responsibilities. If it’s too many people, you might have a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ problem. 

This is especially critical in remote work settings, since clarity of role is necessary when you don’t have the tap-on-the-shoulder opportunity of an office. Chance communications don’t happen remotely, meaning you have to be more clear up front about who is doing what. 

When clarifying roles, think about:

  • What people are held accountable for. 
  • If someone above them is held more accountable for the same outcome.
  • If someone’s job description explicitly covers an area that a meeting is about. 
  • Who is primarily focused on execution versus planning and approval. 

Transparency and communication

Similarly, keeping the golden rule requires you to think about transparency and communication down-funnels. If you can only have 6-7 people in the meeting but more people need to be made aware of what comes out of the meeting, you have to plan for your transparency and post-meeting communication channels. 

This leads to a communications triage system, which is a system that helps employees identify the messages that are most relevant to them. 

Triage systems can be built in a couple ways:

  • Identifying specific tools that match specific types of communications (e.g. Slack for social messages, email for business messages).
  • Identifying specific flags or naming of messages so it’s easy to tell them apart (e.g. Direct message on Slack if it’s important, general channel message if it’s not). 

However you structure your communications triage, make sure it provides an easy way for employees to see how important a message is so they can prioritize accordingly. Do this right and you won’t have to worry about having more people in meetings. 

Respect everyone’s time

On the flip side of communicating outward, not requiring everyone to attend every meeting is a signal you respect their time, which leads to a healthier and more productive work culture. When that happens, employees can get more done (which is a key driver of remote work leading to more productivity – fewer random meetings). 

It’s important to remember that remote work is a tool and process, not a totally new business. You still have the same foundations of respecting employees, delivering value, and capturing some of the value you create. So while you need to accommodate a remote work methodology, it’s not about changing every single detail of your organization. Some rules – like the golden rule of meetings – hold true no matter what. 

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