The importance of timeboxing

Published March 27, 2017 by David Horowitz

Ever finish a meeting and ask yourself, "So what did we accomplish in that meeting, anyway?"

Me too.

When you stop and think about it, it's amazing how many meetings (including retrospectives!) go offtrack thanks to unimportant topics of conversation, sidebar conversations, and a lack of focus.

Fortunately, there's a simple fix. Timeboxing.

Timeboxing allows you as a facilitator to keep your team focused. If you set an 8-minute timebox for a topic of discussion, everyone will feel pressure to stay on topic. No talking about your beach vacation for the first 5's all business.

(That's not to say talking with your colleagues about non-work related subjects is a bad idea. Quite the opposite, in fact! But perhaps it's better over lunch?)

The first time you try timeboxing, it might feel a bit uncomfortable. Are you really going to interrupt someone mid-sentence to say, "Oh sorry, but the timebox is up! Gotta move on!"

I don't think so.

To remove the discomfort around timeboxing, you can utilize roman voting to give the power of when to move on to the participants in the meeting.

Here's how it works. At the end of a timebox, give your team the option of voting with a thumbs up or a thumbs down (a "roman vote"). A thumbs up means, "I love this topic and think we need to keep talking about it." A thumbs down means, "I'm done with this topic of discussion. Ready to move on!"

As a facilitator, whenever a timebox expires, just ask the team to roman vote. You will quickly get a sense of whether its time to move on to the next topic or not without interrupting the flow of the conversation.

So, there you have it. Timeboxing + Roman Voting. A powerful combination.

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