Better Meetings with Concise Global Context

When you’re accustomed to working with people, you develop shorthand and jargon, often diving into details to get work done.

But every project has new people or outsiders from other projects at the company. It’s a really good idea to set context every time you communicate.

This is true for both documents and in meetings. You might think this takes a long time, but it turns out that it can be shockingly concise, especially if you practice.

The added benefit, as you’ll see, is that you can reiterate company values, mission, and core metrics.

Here is an example from my time at Lyft Level 5 which works on self driving vehicles. Take the parts in quotes as what you’d say or write, with the labels there for understanding their purpose.

World: "Every year 1.2M people die in cars,“
Mission: "and autonomous vehicles can save them.“
Metric: "But we can't launch until we're safer than humans,“
Strategy: "and the fastest way to get there is high scale simulation,”
Project: "which means turning Lyft fleet scenarios into sim instances.”
Meeting: "Today we're checking in on... [some product feature]”

Read those quoted bits out loud, and you’ll see it takes 50 words, spoken in 15 seconds.

If someone reading a public blog post can understand your project, the people in-room certainly will.

I’ve polled people working on such projects about these kinds of introductions, and the surprising part is how much the most experienced veterans appreciate it too. The reason is that keeping this context is hard for people working on the details, because they aren’t thinking about mission and strategy all the time.

This is also relevant for company building. After you get past a certain size, it’s very hard for the founders to impart the reason the company exists. It needs to be baked into the culture and self sustaining. The 500th hire needs to understand it. This means your communication 1:many is a core tool. But meeting and document introductions outnumber company all-hands by 10:1 per employee.

And now many companies are experimenting with remote work, this culture and context setting is even more important.