Atlassian’s Secret to Better Cross-Functional Meetings

In 2015, Harvard Business Review published a piece with the head-turning title “75% of Cross-Functional Teams Are Dysfunctional.”

Sadly, it’s a pretty safe bet that not much has changed on that front in the last six years. What has changed is how important successful cross-functional collaboration has become—especially when you’re tackling complex, big-picture initiatives on things like customer experience (CX).

But how exactly do you improve the effectiveness of your cross-functional meetings? It’s especially challenging when many of us are still working remotely. Even the founder of Zoom has admitted he’s sick of virtual meetings.

On a recent episode of the OV BUILD podcast, host Blake Bartlett pointed out that an agenda isn’t enough. His guest, Jürgen Spangl, agreed. As the CXO at Atlassian, Jürgen runs a lot of cross-functional meetings, so he needed to tackle the issue head-on.

Jürgen uses several strategies to help his team reap the valuable benefits of gathering insights from varied perspectives without jeopardizing productivity. One of his favorites—defining the type of session—is a super powerful tool for proactively managing the conversation to get the outcomes you want.

The idea, as Blake explained, is that defining the type of meeting allows you to avoid the usual meeting chaos by setting clear expectations, getting people in the right mindset to accomplish your objectives, and establishing specific roles for each participant.

Two of the most common meeting types are info sessions and decision sessions. Info sessions are for sharing and helping others understand something better. Decision sessions involve laying out multiple options with the intention of choosing one of them. Success for decision sessions depends greatly on clearly defining who will make the decision and how they will make the decision.

“Defining the type of meeting allows you to avoid the usual meeting chaos by setting clear expectations, getting people in the right mindset to accomplish your objectives, and establishing specific roles for each participant.”

Jürgen also shared a third type of meeting called a sparring session. “The purpose of a sparring session is for someone to share a raw idea and invite people to help make the idea better by being brutal,” he says. “It’s similar to design critique, but we use it for pretty much everyone in the company from design to engineers to PMs.”

In theory, defining the type of session is a simple thing to do. In practice, it takes discipline to do consistently. But if you can develop the habit and get your team on board, it’s a small thing that can make a big difference. It does for Atlassian.

Jürgen and Blake covered a lot more during their conversation, from how to build a cross-functional CX team to how being human will be our superpower as we transition into the “next normal.” Listen to the full episode below, and don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

Jamie Wallace
Jamie Wallace
Writer
OpenView

Jamie is a writer, mom, and nature lover based in Ipswich, MA.
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