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.

Hubs, Groups, Teams, Sites – trying to understand them all

Microsoft is releasing new features into Office 365 at an unprecedented level – and it’s taking quite a lot of effort for experts in the field to stay current on what is what, let alone customers and end users!

Historically in Office 365 we had key product workloads:

* Azure is not technically part of Office 365 but powers several of the services

Then Microsoft acquired Yammer and worked to integrate it.

Then Microsoft released Office 365 Groups (aka Outlook Groups).

Then Microsoft released Planner.

Then Microsoft released Teams.

Then Microsoft released StaffHub.

And there is more coming…

As an example, Microsoft’s latest release StaffHub utilises ALL of the above workloads, as well as the Microsoft Teams chat service (not the actual product or interface).

Where previously IT admins would need to stitch together each individual component, Office 365 Groups has surfaced as the one substrate to rule them all – and that is a very good thing which continues to improve.

While the various integrations between workloads are still being rolled out, even when they are we will be left with things like:

  • An Office 365 Group gets a SharePoint team site, BUT a SharePoint team site does not require or create an Office 365 Group
  • A Yammer group can exist on its own, BUT can also create an Office 365 Group, BUT an Office 365 Group does not create a Yammer group
  • A Microsoft Team creates its own Office 365 Group or can be connected to an existing one, BUT an Office 365 Group does not provision a Team
  • A Planner creates an Office 365 Group, BUT each channel within a Microsoft Team can have its own Planner – BUT these cannot be accessed currently from the Planner/Groups interface
  • Each Microsoft Team channel creates a new section in the OneNote within the Office 365 Group, BUT you cannot access the sections of the OneNote file that existed before the Team channel was created
  • StaffHub creates an Office 365 Group, BUT an Office 365 Group does not create a StaffHub
  • StaffHub uses the Teams chat service, BUT you cannot access the StaffHub “chat” service from the Teams interface

Clear? No? Then you’re with the rest of us. Let’s not throw in marketing spin in there like the Surface Hub – which “unlocks the power of the Group”.

The reality is that the experiences and cross-integrations are improving at a rapid pace, so while this is currently confusing it is important to remember that in the past year Office 365 has taken a huge lurch forward away from siloed product-based workloads, and towards integrated experiences and services.

It is important to remember:

  • Microsoft Teams is still in preview and is expected to move to General Availability sometime in Q1 of this calendar year (let’s assume mid/late March to be safe)
  • Yammer is currently rolling out it’s Office 365 Groups integration
  • Planner has only been available since July 2016 and is iterating rapidly
  • Office 365 Groups integration with SharePoint team sites has only just begun rolling out in production
  • StaffHub was just released to General Availability in the past week

So strap in and hold on, it’s a wild ride!

However, on a serious note: while the pace of change is fast and not everything works the way we want – in some instances we need to be patient and wait for integrations or rollouts to finish. In other instances, ensure that we wrap customers and end-users with a big blanket of change management and hand-holding to get the greatest chance of successful adoption, actual productivity improvement and ultimately user satisfaction.

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