Asynchronous (adjective; computing, telecommunications): of or relating to operation without the use of fixed time intervals.

It’s a busy, busy world. How much time do you spend in meetings each week? Five, eight, 16, 24 hours or more? Could a more accurate job title for yourself be meeting attendee? How many of these meetings are status report meetings?

Thankfully, technology can time-shift your life.

We've already seen it at home. DVR technology allows people to record a show and watch it on their own schedule. Fast forwarding or using a service like Hopper can even help you skip commercials. (I bet kids these days have no clue that we used to sit in front of a big box of a TV and watch a show in real time.) For audio, a podcast is a series of digital media files which a user can set up so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user's own local computer or portable media player. No more listening only when it's on, or fumbling to press both play and record at the same time to record on your radio/cassette player.)

So how do we bring that concept of technology to the office? (No, not your digital recording of Game of Thrones, sorry. That violates any number of human resources rules and the Geneva Convention.) The unmeeting is an asynchronous information distribution method leveraging a number of technologies, including demonstrations, webcasts, digital video recordings, presentations, podcasts and more. Critical information gets to the people who need it and stakeholders who need to know it, readily available without slowly force-feeding the same information to everyone.

Unmeetings are great for Static Content Delivery (SCD), such as:

  • • Status reports that don’t need input or discussion
  • • Sixty-360 second application, software or systems video demonstrations
  • • Documentation artifacts
  • • Pre-briefing read-ahead materials so people can better prepare for discussions
  • • Dynamic Content Capture (DCC)
  • • Customer feedback surveys
  • • Requirements, prioritization, security surveys
  • • Electronic approvals (Go/No-Go Decisions)
  • • Customer application/system/solution acceptance

 

CONS

  • • Not everyone may read or view the information. (This may be true in traditional meetings too.)

 

PROS:

  • • Information is stored in a central location
  • • Transparent project/portfolio visibility
  • • Flexible and disparate working environments
  • • Not having to wait 10 minutes for everyone to arrive
  • • Not having to repeat the first 10 minutes for latecomers

 

Unmeetings support governance, structure and security controls. SCD requires that content is created—and delivered. The content can be user stories, tasks, plans (project, transition, training, security, spend, test, verification, etc.), documents (CONOPS, SOWs, GCEs, MOUs, studies, requirements, design, architecture, diagrams, models, forecasts, guides (user, admin), security controls, etc.), reports, recorded demos, instructional videos, charts, schedules, lists and more. Content can even be an old-school PowerPoint presentation. It still can’t be your Game of Thrones recording, still sorry. Governance is simplified by having all the SCD content available and searchable by all. Security is streamlined by having visibility into the content (requirements, design, etc.) from the beginning of the project rather than the end, resulting in less rework.

DCC enables meetings to be meaningful. Stakeholders have a chance to review the SCD content and approve or accept items before the meeting, so the meeting can focus on the issues that need resolution. Everyone has the option to review all content at a time that suits them, which may not be at 0900 Tuesday. If there are no concerns on a particular document, plan, task, etc., it doesn’t make it on to the meeting agenda and meetings become shorter and more efficient. Before unmeetings, when a required approver wasn’t available at a designated meeting, the decision would be rescheduled to the next week. Unmeetings help keep projects on schedule by not requiring everyone to be at the same place at the same time.

Even better, unmeetings support automation. Users, engineers, managers, mission customers and stakeholders all have visibility into the status of everything that impacts them. Gone are the days of wondering who still needs to approve a project. With simple workflows people can subscribe to alerts to be reminded when actions are due or informational notices to keep up with a project or topic.

Unmeetings give you back time. If offered the choice between an hour-long meeting or a three-minute video, which would you choose?

The one thing we can’t make more of is time.

 

About the Author CJ Johnson, Servicefront Solutions Architect

CJ Johnson is a senior solutions architect at NJVC and is leading NJVC's efforts to reinvent enterprise IT. She has solved IT challenges for the federal government across three continents and in four languages for more than 20 years. She is an ardent hockey fan (and is known to live stream games at 0230).