Anatomy of a well-communicated meeting

Earlier this week on RE:Office 365 we discussed etiquette when it comes to meetings. A lot of great points were raised and I think most people generally come to the same consensus that meetings should be better. So why is it that people still get their feathers ruffled around organising and having meetings.

I thought it quite ironic that almost immediately after the live stream ended I was speaking with a friend that works at a large Australian firm, and mentioned the discussion I’d just been a part of. They were staying at home for the day as they were unwell and had logged into their email to cancel any meetings for the day. One of them was a workshop with a number of people, and within a few minutes of the cancellation the organiser fired back quite tersely about how important this workshop was, how it was core to my friend’s job, how difficult it was to organise, etc. My friend was quite flustered with this brittle response.

I asked the question: “did you give a reason for your cancellation, or just cancel without any message?”. They indicated the latter. I didn’t need to say anything further on this as they immediately followed up with “I guess I should have explained why”.

The organiser of the meeting found out from my friend’s manager later that morning and sent an email wishing them a speedy recovery. This was a positive action to take from someone who realised that they may have overreacted in the tone of the email and was attempting to make amends. However, time and energy would have been saved if my friend had simply let the organiser know that they were unwell in the first place.

I recently wrote an article about “Bob” and his boss, where Bob cancelled the meeting with a few minutes to spare which caused his boss to overreact with a terse email. Bob could have done better by cancelling the meeting earlier – this would have avoided his boss being a dick and responding with how important he was and how unacceptable the meeting cancellation was.

On The Office 365 Good Etiquette Guide I have written a number of smaller articles around meeting etiquette that are really common sense, but for the sake of the exercise let’s piece together what I believe would be a well-communicated meeting that everyone will benefit from.

For the meeting organiser:

For the meeting participants:

The reality is that if the organiser spends a minute or two extra before sending a meeting invite: they will have a better a response.

If participants write a line or two when declining or cancelling this will save considerable frustration.

The technology has been here for a while:

If you don’t have the technology, get it. A comparatively small investment will result in an increased speed of decision making and collaboration, improve employee satisfaction by removing meeting frustrations.

The people aspect however costs even less to improve. Think about your fellow human being as a person, not a resource or obstruction. This person has their own job and life with their own challenges and pressures. We don’t know what is going on at all times with each other, and in reality, it’s not entirely our business. However, it is important to be considerate. So, spend a few extra seconds or minutes before, during and after meetings – it will pay off handsomely in the long run.

First experiences with Microsoft To-Do

Microsoft this morning announced their new “Microsoft To-Do” app available for public preview on all mobile platforms and the web.

This app will eventually supersede the Wunderlist app that Microsoft purchased almost two years ago. I use the Wunderlist app for my personal life, sharing lists with my wife for things such as groceries. Microsoft even refers to Wunderlist as the go-to app for personal task management.

While Wunderlist works will in the personal context, it doesn’t integrate with any work services such as Office 365. This is where one of the challenges with Planner comes in as people want to use the Kanban-style interface to visualise and manage their personal task list (more on that in a post soon).

So with Microsoft To-Do to replace Wunderlist I went out and installed it, and straight away noticed a few issues I wouldn’t have expected to be there when compared to other previews Microsoft has released.

The first one is that when signing in with a Microsoft Account for personal use – there is simply no sharing option. So while I can import lists from Wunderlist, I can’t continue to share them with my wife. This is a deal breaker because while I want to manage my personal tasks using the new app, I don’t want to have to continue using Wunderlist for my shared lists and then To-Do for my individual lists.

Secondly the app experience is inconsistent. On my Android it is called “Microsoft To-Do”, but in the Windows Store it is still called “Project Cheshire”.

Although after installing it the app is called “Microsoft To-Do”.

I was able to log in to the app on my Android, but not on the Surface. In fact, I was given a message that was just wrong, given that I was logging in with a Microsoft account:

Thirdly the app apparently supports signing in with an Office 365 account. The app FAQ even says that you need to have the correctly licensed service, and the blog post says the service is built on Office 365. But when attempting to sign in with my Office 365 account I get denied at every turn, on the web:

On the Windows app:

On my phone:

Looking around my Office 365 tenant I don’t see any reference to To-Do. I’m set to First Release, I’ve looked in Services & add-ins and no joy.

As a preview this product is unfortunately a complete bust for me – both on a personal and work level. I’m hoping that perhaps the Office 365 sign-in issue is simply that it hasn’t been made available globally yet, but if that is the case I’m surprised that the announcement would have gone out without it being fully available globally.

The To-Do team do however have a UserVoice and Twitter account going, so hopefully they learn from other Microsoft app teams and iterate quickly!