sparkle-logo

Meeting Cadence: How to Set One for Your Team

Meeting Cadence: How to Set One for Your Team

Meetings, meetings, meetings…

Does it ever feel like they’re taking over your life? You’re not alone.

Finding that sweet spot between too many and too few is a delicate balance.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Say goodbye to unproductive meetings and hello to a new meeting cadence that gets results.

Excited? Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Meeting cadence refers to the regular schedule or rhythm of meetings within a team. It includes the frequency, timing, and objectives of these gatherings to keep teams aligned and focused on shared goals.
  • Types of Meeting Cadence:
    • Daily: Short standups or huddles for immediate priorities and blockers.
    • Weekly: Team and one-on-one meetings to discuss progress and challenges.
    • Bi-weekly: Sprint planning, project check-ins, and cross-team collaboration.
    • Monthly: Company-wide updates, board meetings, and strategic planning.
    • Quarterly: High-level reviews and planning for KPIs and business objectives.
    • Annual: Year-end reviews, goal-setting, and strategic direction.
  • How to Set an Effective Meeting Cadence:
    • Define purpose and objectives to ensure everyone understands the meeting’s goals and can prepare effectively.
    • Select the right attendees by inviting only those who can contribute directly to decision-making, keeping the meeting focused.
    • Evaluate team dynamics to consider team size, communication styles, and time zones, ensuring the cadence suits everyone.
    • Adopt asynchronous communication through project management tools and written updates to reduce unnecessary meetings.
    • Determine the ideal frequency and duration to align the cadence with objectives while keeping meetings brief.
    • Create a structured agenda with clear topics and timing, emphasizing actionable outcomes.
    • Facilitate efficient meetings by assigning a facilitator to manage the meeting flow and foster participation.
    • Document and follow up by sharing key decisions, action items, and next steps with participants promptly.
    • Refine continuously by gathering feedback and adjusting the cadence to better meet your team’s needs.

What is Meeting Cadence?

Meeting cadence refers to the frequency at which you hold team meetings. It’s essentially the heartbeat that keeps your team aligned, engaged, and on track with their goals.

Having a consistent cadence offers several benefits:

  • Improved team alignment: Regular check-ins ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards shared objectives.
  • Efficient communication: A structured meeting schedule promotes transparency and minimizes information silos.
  • Increased productivity: By reducing unnecessary meetings, your team has more time to focus on their core work.
  • Better time management: A predictable meeting rhythm helps your team plan and prioritize their workload more effectively.

While meetings are essential for team alignment, decision-making, and collaboration, they should be efficient and focused.

One of my favorite books, ‘Death by Meeting’ by Patrick Lencioni, includes a quote that perfectly captures the essence of efficient meetings.

The goal of most successful meetings is to get back to works as quickly as possible - Partick Lencioni author of the book Death by Meeting


“’The goal of most successful meetings is to get back to work as quickly as possible.’” 

By establishing a clear agenda and structured cadence, meetings can be efficient and yield actionable results, allowing teams to quickly return to productive work.

Types of Meeting Cadences

Now, let’s explore the different types of meeting cadences and their purposes. Here’s a handy table to help you visualize the options:

Types of CadenceFrequencyExample MeetingsPurpose
DailyEvery dayDaily Standups
Production Huddles
-> Provide status updates on active projects & workstreams

-> Identify and remove blockers quickly

->
Maintain tight feedback loops
WeeklyOnce a weekTeam Syncs
Project Updates
1:1 Check-Ins
-> Review progress and results from the past week

->
Collaborate on upcoming milestones

->
Make decisions and remove roadblocks

->
Manager-report feedback
Bi-WeeklyEvery 2 weeksCross-Functional Updates
Executive Briefings
-> Coordinate across teams on large initiatives

->
Report major milestones to leadership

->
Identify cross-team dependencies
MonthlyOnce a monthLeadership Meetings
All-Hands
Town Halls
-> Strategic planning and key decisions

->
Provide company-wide updates and announcements

->
Reinforce culture, values, and objectives
QuarterlyEvery 3 monthsBusiness Reviews
Cross-Functional Planning
Innovation Workshops
-> Analyze performance and course-correct

->
Align on new priorities for the upcoming quarter

->
Brainstorm new initiatives and improvements
AnnualOnce a yearYear-End Reviews
Strategic Planning
Kick-Off Events
-> Celebrate achievements and extract learnings

-> Set long-term vision and multi-year goals

->
Motivate teams for the year ahead

As you can see, each cadence serves a different purpose. Daily standups are great for keeping tabs on time-sensitive projects, while weekly meetings allow you to address project updates, challenges, and roadblocks.

Bi-weekly and monthly meetings are ideal for cross-functional collaboration and company-wide updates.

Quarterly and annual cadences, on the other hand, are better suited for strategic planning, reviewing key performance indicators (KPIs), and setting long-term goals.

Daily Meetings

These quick 15-30 minute check-ins help teams maintain a tight feedback loop on rapidly moving projects or continuously evolving work streams. Two common examples:

  • Daily Standups:
    • Team members will share progress updates from the previous day.
    • They will outline plans and goals for the day.
    • They will identify blockers and roadblocks.
    • Urgent issues affecting productivity will be resolved.
  • Production Huddles:
    • Key performance metrics will be discussed.
    • Quality concerns will be addressed in real time.
    • Safety topics and compliance will be reviewed.
    • The daily production run or shift goals will be planned.

Weekly Meetings

Spanning 30-60 minutes, these meetings provide a regular rhythm for reporting progress, making decisions, and collaborating across workstreams. Examples include:

  • Team Sync:
    • Wins and lessons learned will be highlighted.
    • Roadblocks hindering progress will be tackled.
    • Shifting priorities and leadership updates will be communicated.
    • Milestones for the upcoming week will be set.
  • Project Update:
    • The project’s progress and timelines will be reviewed.
    • Stakeholder updates and scope changes will be provided.
    • Next steps will be planned to address upcoming issues.
    • Resources and focus will be realigned as required.
  • 1:1 Check-Ins:
    • Progress on current projects will be reviewed.
    • Professional development and growth will be discussed.
    • Constructive feedback and coaching will be provided.
    • Personal challenges affecting work will be addressed.

Bi-weekly Meetings

For projects or long-term initiatives spanning multiple months, bi-weekly meetings maintain good visibility without getting overly mired in the details:

  • Cross-Functional Updates:
    • Progress on major initiatives will be shared.
    • Cross-team dependencies affecting delivery will be identified.
    • Key milestones and upcoming deliverables will be aligned.
    • Next steps will be planned for coordinated collaboration.
  • Executive Briefings:
    • High-level progress updates will be provided.
    • Roadblocks needing executive support will be identified.
    • Critical issues requiring leadership decisions will be presented.
    • Feedback on strategic direction and adjustments will be sought.

Monthly Meetings

These recurring monthly sessions cover bigger-picture items, strategic discussions, and key company-wide events.

  • Leadership Team Meeting:
    • Operational performance across departments will be reviewed.
    • Shifting priorities and emerging challenges will be identified.
    • Key decisions affecting company strategy will be made.
    • Upcoming organizational initiatives will be planned.
  • All-Hands Meeting:
    • Successes will be celebrated and company achievements will be highlighted.
    • High-level updates and major announcements will be provided.
    • Cultural values and core objectives will be reinforced.
    • Employees will be rallied with motivational messages.
  • Town Halls:
    • An open forum for employees to ask candid questions will be created.
    • Two-way feedback on recent company developments will be gathered.
    • Concerns will be addressed, and clarity on leadership decisions will be provided.
    • Engagement will be strengthened through transparent communication.

Quarterly Meetings

As each quarter concludes, more extensive sessions take stock for course correction and future planning:

  • Quarterly Business Reviews:
  • Quarterly performance will be analyzed compared to targets.
  • Future goals will be adjusted based on success metrics.
  • Strategic initiatives for the upcoming quarter will be planned.
  • Opportunities to improve productivity will be identified.
  • Cross-Functional Planning:
  • Product roadmaps and strategic priorities will be revisited.
  • Teams across departments will be aligned.
  • Resources will be adjusted to meet new cross-department initiatives.
  • Key goals and timelines for the next quarter will be clarified.
  • Innovation Workshops:
  • New product or service ideas will be brainstormed.
  • Process improvements and productivity boosts will be strategized.
  • New markets and customer segments will be explored.
  • Creative thinking and cross-functional collaboration will be encouraged.

Annual Meetings

While infrequent, these meetings carry immense importance in reflecting on the year’s achievements and setting future direction.

  • Year-End Review:
  • Successes will be celebrated, and outstanding achievements will be recognized.
  • Challenges will be analyzed, and key lessons learned will be extracted.
  • Growth opportunities for future performance will be identified.
  • New initiatives for improved productivity will be planned.
  • Strategic Planning:
  • Leadership will align on long-term strategic goals and priorities.
  • The company’s strategic initiatives and vision will be defined.
  • Multi-year goals and KPIs for growth will be identified.
  • Accountability and reporting mechanisms will be established.
  • Kick-Off Events:
  • The entire company will be rallied around a new vision and goals.
  • The tone for the upcoming year will be set with motivational speeches.
  • New initiatives and major projects will be introduced.
  • Excitement and team alignment for the year ahead will be fostered.

Meet more for ongoing tasks, less for big plans. Each meeting should be valuable for discussion, teamwork, or decisions. If a meeting isn’t helpful, skip it.

7 Key Questions to Ask Before Setting Your Cadence

Unproductive meetings cost U.S. businesses $37 billion a year, highlighting the need for a thoughtful meeting cadence. 

Unproductive meetings cost U.S. businesses $37 billion a year

Here are seven essential questions to help you set the ideal rhythm:

  1. What is the meeting’s goal or purpose, and what are the desired outcomes?
    Clarify the primary purpose, whether brainstorming, updating, or strategizing. Set specific outcomes to keep discussions focused.
  1. Who should attend to provide valuable input and representation?
    Identify essential stakeholders who contribute directly to the meeting’s goals. Ensure cross-functional collaboration when needed.
  2. Can this meeting happen asynchronously through email or collaboration tools?
    Assess if progress updates or task assignments can be done through emails, shared documents, or collaboration tools like Slack.
  3. Is the meeting urgent or time-sensitive based on deadlines and project complexity?
    Determine if immediate collaboration is required due to deadlines or complexity. If not, consider a less frequent schedule.
  4. What is the ideal meeting cadence based on frequency and duration?
    Balance efficiency and practicality by setting a cadence that provides consistent updates without overwhelming attendees.
  1. Have team dynamics like time zones and communication styles been considered?
    Schedule meetings at convenient times for distributed teams. Tailor the cadence to fit different preferences and schedules.
  2. Do previous meeting outcomes suggest changes in cadence are needed?
    Review past feedback and meeting outcomes to adjust the cadence for better productivity and decision-making.

How to Set an Effective Meeting Cadence

Now that you understand the different types of meeting cadences and their purposes, let’s dive into how you can set an effective cadence for your team. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get it right:

9 simple steps on effective meeting cadence setup

Step 1: Define Purpose and Objectives

Define Purpose and Objectives

Source: Unsplash

First, define the purpose and objectives for each type of meeting in your monthly schedule. This step is crucial to keep meetings focused and productive. Only then should you consider frequency and attendees.

  • Identify Core Meeting Types: What recurring meetings does your team need? Some common examples are daily standups, weekly status syncs, monthly planning sessions, quarterly reviews, etc.
  • Align on Purpose: For each meeting type, get granular about its specific purpose. Is it for providing status updates? Collaborative work? Strategic planning? Decision-making? Having this clarity upfront is key.
  • Map Objectives: Once the purpose is defined, outline the desired outcomes and objectives. What are the targeted outputs, decisions, or accomplishments for each meeting? This will guide your agenda planning.
  • Plan Focused Agendas: Don’t wing it. Develop a detailed agenda template for each recurring meeting type, allocating time for each objective or output. Circulate agendas ahead of time so attendees can prepare accordingly.

Step 2: Invite Only Important Attendees

Invite Only Important Attendees

Source: Unsplash

Having frequent meetings with too many attendees can make meetings inefficient and unfocused. Keeping the invite list tight is crucial:

  • Determine Required Roles: What roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authorities need to be represented for each meeting type’s objectives?
  • Limit Spectators: While it may seem inclusive to open up meetings to the entire team, too many passive attendees can stifle productive discussions. Distribute notes or recordings to keep others informed as needed.
  • Account for team structure: In larger organizations, you may need representatives from key departments, rather than the entire department, to provide relevant updates and perspectives.
  • Define Consistent Attendees: Once you identify the essential roles, keep the core invite list consistent from meeting to meeting for that particular type. This solidifies expectations and attendance norms.

Step 3: Evaluate Team Dynamics

Evaluate Team Dynamics

Source: Unsplash

The most effective meeting cadences account for each individual team member’s unique dynamics and working styles:

  • Adjust for Team Size: While a daily 15-person standup may work for a small squad, it likely won’t scale for a 50-person team. Larger teams may need to break into sub-team meetings that then sync up less frequently.
  • Consider Work Schedules: If you have teams distributed across multiple time zones, prioritize a cadence that shares the burden of late or early meeting times equitably through rotations or asynchronous updates.
  • Adapt to Communication Styles: Some teams crave frequent face-to-face interaction while others prefer asynchronous written communication as much as possible. Factor in these preferences when establishing your core cadence.
  • Accommodate Working Patterns: Understand when your team is most focused vs. collaborative. An ill-timed daily standup could disrupt makers’ schedules. An afternoon sync may be ideal for groups with more overlapping focused time.

Step 4: Adopt Asynchronous Collaboration

Adopt Asynchronous Collaboration

Source: Unsplash

While meetings create opportunities for live collaboration and discussion, don’t overdo it. Leverage asynchronous meetings as tools to enhance your cadence and reduce unnecessary meetings:

  • Written Updates: Require teams to share status updates, reports, and completed work items via team chat, email, project management tools, etc. ahead of meetings. This allows meetings to be a discussion of substantive topics rather than rundowns.
  • Documentation Collaboration: Use tools like Google Workspace, Microsoft Office, or other shared document solutions to facilitate async document sharing, review, and feedback outside of meetings.
  • Project and Task Management: Dedicated project management platforms like Jira, Asana, ClickUp, and more provide visibility into project progress and tasking without meetings. Use them for work accountability rather than meetings.

The goal is to optimize for meaningful face-to-face discussions and decisions, while offloading status sharing and basic updates to asynchronous channels. This makes meetings more focused and has a higher impact.

Step 5: Determine Ideal Frequency and Duration

Determine Ideal Frequency and Duration

Source: Unsplash

With your objectives and meeting types defined, you can now establish the appropriate cadence and timebox for each:

  • Match Frequency to Need: Frequent daily or weekly check-ins may be required for dynamic projects or high-priority initiatives. Monthly or quarterly frequencies could suffice for high-level planning or compliance meetings. Align cadence with the nature of the work.
  • Time-box Appropriately: Well-run meetings should be as short as possible while still achieving objectives. Daily standups may only need 15 minutes. Weekly syncs are likely an hour or less. Strategic planning sessions could be 2-3 hours. The shorter and more focused, the better.
  • Be Intentional With Duration: Don’t just accept default meeting durations. Scrutinize each meeting’s agenda and objectives to determine the right amount of time to allocate. Having a defined timebox reinforces focus.
  • Batch Similar Meeting Types: For maximum efficiency, look to batch meetings of the same type and purpose together where possible (all project debriefs one day, planning sessions another day, etc.) This allows attendees to remain in the same mental mode.

Step 6: Create Structured Agendas

Create Structured Agendas

Source: Unsplash

With meeting types, attendees, and proper meeting length and cadence well defined, you can now build out well-structured agendas as the backbone of effective meetings:

  • Map Topics to Objectives: List out specific topics, presentations, or discussions that directly map to the meeting’s objectives. Skip anything non-essential to keep things focused.
  • Allocate Timed Agenda Items: Instead of just listing agenda topics, allocate time estimates for each item based on its priority or complexity. This emphasizes the urgency of each task.
  • Identify Speakers and Presenters: For each agenda item, note who will be leading that discussion or presenting that update. This increases accountability and encourages preparation.
  • Build-In Buffers: Even the most efficient meetings can hit unexpected speed bumps. Build in short 5-10 minute buffers between major topics to stay on schedule.
  • Highlight Desired Outcomes: For discussions or decision points, make sure the agenda clearly states the intended outcome, whether it’s approval, next steps, feedback, etc. This keeps the conversation goal-oriented.

Step 7: Facilitate Focused Meetings

Facilitate Focused Meetings

Source: Unsplash

With the right planning in place, you can now maximize engagement and efficiency during meetings:

  • Assign a Facilitator: Designate someone to officially facilitate the meeting, own the agenda, keep things moving, and course-correct as needed. This role is crucial for accountability.
  • Recap Objectives & Agenda: Don’t assume attendees pre-read the agenda. Quickly recap the meeting’s objectives and what’s covered at the start so everyone is aligned.
  • Encourage Participation: Foster an environment where all attendees feel comfortable and empowered to actively participate, ask questions, and contribute ideas. Gently keep dominant voices in check.
  • Parking Lot Effectively: When discussions start to veer off-course, acknowledge the tangent and “park” those items on a designated parking lot or issue list to revisit later if time allows. This prevents total derailments.
  • Take Breaks: For longer meetings, schedule short breaks every 45-60 minutes to allow for mental resets. This helps rev up focus and engagement over extended sessions.

Step 8: Document and Follow-Up

Document and Follow-Up

Source: Unsplash

The meeting itself is just the first step, consistent documentation and follow-up are critical:

  • Capture Notes and Action Items: Have a designated notetaker (or use recording tools) to document meeting highlights, decisions made, open issues, and all action items assigned during the meeting.
  • Circulate Notes Promptly: Don’t let meetings become a black box – share comprehensive notes and recordings with all attendees and any other key stakeholders immediately after each meeting. This reinforces transparency and accountability.
  • Clearly Define Owners: Within the notes, clearly document who is responsible for completing any action items coming out of the meeting, including due dates and next steps. No guesswork allowed.
  • Schedule Follow-Up Reminders: Leverage calendar tools or project management platforms to automatically schedule follow-up reminders and notifications for action item owners prior to the next recurring meeting.

Step 9: Refine Continuously

Refine Continuously

Source: Unsplash

Even with best-laid plans, your team meeting cadence won’t be perfect out of the gate. Adopting an iterative approach is crucial:

  • Gather Frequent Feedback: Establish a reliable method for collecting honest feedback from meeting participants. This might include brief surveys, retrospectives, or simply dedicating time for open comments during meetings.
  • Identify Pain Points: As you collect feedback, look for patterns around complaints of unproductiveness, unclear objectives, too many or too few meetings of certain types, or any other recurring themes that signal problems.
  • Make Adjustments: Use that feedback data to adjust your cadence over time. Perhaps you add, remove, or modify certain meeting types. Or change frequencies, durations, attendee lists, etc. Don’t be beholden to your initial plan if it’s not fully effective.
  • Embrace Experimentation: Be open-minded to trying new approaches and formats to optimize your cadence based on your team’s evolving needs and work styles. What works for a few months may need refreshing over time.

Though there’s no universal solution, dedicating time initially to set up your team’s meeting schedule thoughtfully, and then refining it through feedback and adjustments, is immensely valuable.

It sets the stage for efficient, productive meetings that keep everyone aligned and engaged without burning out on unnecessary sessions. An effective cadence is a cornerstone of a high-performing team.

FAQs

What is cadence for meeting with a manager?

Meeting cadence with a manager refers to the regular schedule of one-on-one meetings between a manager and their direct report(s). The quarterly meeting cadence used can vary, but weekly or bi-weekly meetings are common to discuss progress, goals, challenges, and provide constructive feedback.

What are the benefits of meeting cadence?

A well-structured meeting cadence keeps the team aligned on shared goals, reduces the number of unplanned interruptions, and ensures consistent communication. This helps foster collaboration, clarify expectations, and boost overall productivity.

Is cadence the same as a meeting?

No, cadence is not the same as a meeting. Cadence refers to the regular rhythm or schedule of meetings (e.g., daily, weekly, or monthly meetings) and defines how often meetings occur.

How to decide on a meeting cadence?

To decide on the right meeting cadence:

  • Assess the urgency and type of work.
  • Consider team size, time zones, and communication preferences.
  • Determine whether the meeting requires synchronous or asynchronous communication.
  • Seek feedback from the team to refine the cadence over time.

What does cadence mean at work?

At work, cadence refers to the consistent rhythm or pattern of activities, such as meetings, tasks, or check-ins. Having a steady cadence helps teams stay organized, aligned, and maintain productivity.

How often should a team meet for different projects?

The frequency depends on the project’s urgency, complexity, and duration. For time-sensitive projects, daily or weekly meetings may be best, while strategic planning might only require monthly or quarterly cadences.

Designing Your Ideal Meeting Cadence

Remember, the goal is not to eliminate meetings altogether but to create a meeting culture that fosters productivity, engagement, and a sense of purpose.

By carefully designing your meeting cadence and embracing best practices, you can reduce burnout, maximize your other team member’s time, and achieve your shared goals more efficiently.

So, take a step back, assess your current meeting rhythm, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Your team (and your productivity) will thank you for it.

References

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *