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More Meaning, Less Rituals

Varun Nair

Apr 5, 2024

We create systems to facilitate information flow in companies. These become daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly rituals everyone follows. The hope is that through these rituals, there will be enough structured and organized information available for good decision making.

When information is incomplete or decisions are poor, typical solutions include:

  1. Changing ritual frequency: "Let's switch this from monthly to weekly."

  2. Changing ritual format: "Let's expand the agenda to track additional KPIs."

  3. Adding new rituals: "Let's do daily standups and add a weekly leads meeting."

These are brute-force and ineffective solutions. Rituals lose meaning over time, people forget what made them useful, and everything becomes a chore. Every week I hear examples of meeting documents that have empty KPI tables and incomplete summaries of work.

My first team at Meta didn't use sprints, daily standups, or dedicated retrospectives. We met weekly to discuss achievements and the next week's goals. It worked well for a small team but didn't scale: we resorted to manually reminding people to update docs, manually summarizing KPI tables, and searching pull requests to summarize work done. It got exponentially harder with hybrid and remote teams.

All of this is low-hanging fruit for automation. We need to be freeing up capacity to make more meaningful decisions instead of being ground down by ritualistic chores.