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Awesome Meetings: Decision meetings

A decision meeting is the most effective way to push any project forward, align a common vision, and decide important aspects of the operations. With great power comes great responsibility though, so let's explore different possibilities.

What's the purpose of a decision meeting? Contrary to the update meetings, this form is about precision and focus, needed to work out a documented solution. It's not about deciding, but about coming to a satisfactory resolution.

Which topics make for a good decision meeting? Since a goal can be reached in many different ways, there must a point in the process where all of them are considered and the best is chosen. That's why open problems like choosing a strategy, design considerations, product development, or selecting 3rd party products are the best candidates for this decision meeting. While update meetings are about informing and wrapping up, decision meetings are the process before.

How to facilitate a decision meeting? This form of a meeting is all about respectful and smart moderation. Every participant will want to be included and have their voice clearly heard. Some of them will require more time to verbalize their opinions, borrowing time from other participants. It's a hard, but fair, task for the facilitator. A good approach would be splitting the meeting into clearly separated parts: open discussion and compromise building.

In the open discussion part the problem of the meeting should be presented, followed by short (5-10 minutes) presentation of different solutions. The goal of this part of the meeting is to get everyone involved on the same page and give equal changes in the second part of the meeting. It's also a good moment to mention the various pros and cons of each solution.

In the compromise building part different possibilities should be carefully analyzed and one by one, the worst solution should be discarded. It can be achieved via vote or by scoring each possible solution (by cost, effort, or risk for example). It's almost impossible to choose one solution among subjectively similar options. That's why the elimination method is so efficient, allowing for smaller, more focused discussions and providing a fact-based approach.

A good idea is to have a clear agenda and optionally share the possible solutions before the meeting to allow participants to get familiar.

How long should be a decision meeting? Depending on the scope of the problem, a decision meeting could take anywhere between 30 and 3 hours. A good rule of thumb is allocating time between parts in a 2:1 relation, e.g. 20 minutes for open discussion and 10 minutes for compromise building. This form of meeting is very intensive and exhausting, therefore problems requiring longer than 3 hours should be split into smaller parts, e.g. product development meetings could be split into separate epics or features.

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