Getting Started Guide

How To Get The Most From Parabol

Team meetings often try to do too much at once: share information, review history, debate, make decisions, collaborate on deliverables, socialize, and more. On top of that, it’s often difficult to hold the focus of attendees, encourage equal participation, and emerge from a meeting with clear next steps. That’s why we’ve built the Parabol Action Meeting.

Parabol leads your team through 3 simple stage that make time for teammates to check in socially, review individual progress, and build and process an agenda into a group plan:

Meeting Lobby    virtual gathering place
Social Check-in     quick awareness of teammate's mental states
Solo Updates    individual accountability
Team Agenda    collective plan-building
Meeting Summary    automatically-generated meeting documentation

 

Meeting Lobby

Your team’s Meeting Lobby is accessible from any Team Board. It’s the online gathering place where your team decides who will Facilitate, before starting the Action Meeting.
 

How-To

Parabol Action Meetings are led by a Facilitator. Any teammate who clicks "Start Meeting" from your team’s meeting Lobby becomes the meeting leader. As the Facilitator advances the meeting, all of the teammate's screens will advance along with them, keeping everybody together and focused.

Team Tips

  • Review the Team Dashboard and add Agenda items to the queue before each scheduled Team Meeting
  • Try rotating the Facilitator role each meeting. It’s a low-risk way to develop leadership skills among teammates
  • The Facilitator can also be changed during a meeting by clicking on any teammate’s avatar in the upper right corner

Social Check-In

The Parabol Action Meeting’s Social Check-In Round gives everybody a moment to see what emotional context the team is bringing with them to the day’s work. This is particularly powerful for remote teams who lack opportunities for casual hallway interactions to socialize.
 

How-To

As the Facilitator advances the meeting, each teammate is given an opportunity to answer a randomized Social Check-in Question. After each person responds, the Facilitator marks them as “Present” or “Absent” and moves to the next teammate until the round is complete.

What it sounds like: If the check-in prompt is, “what has your attention today?” responses might be: “I’ve got a sick kid at home, I might have to stay on Mute”, or “I’m on deadline, I’m really frazzled today”, or “I’m excited for my anniversary dinner plans tonight.” 

Facilitator Tips

  • This time is for each individual; it’s not a discussion
  • Discourage crosstalk to keep things moving
  • Encourage folks to share from a personal rather than professional place--you’ll spend the rest of the meeting talking about work.
  • If a discussion breaks out, advance your screen to the next teammate as a visual prompt for the team to keep moving
  • Pro account teams are able to customize their Social Check-In questions

Team Tips

  • Aid your team’s momentum by withholding commentary
  • Give vulnerability to get vulnerability!
  • Read up on how Social Check-In Rounds are used at Medium

Solo Updates

Solo Updates generate individual accountability for tasks, create transparency for the entire team, and surface information to aid in building the Meeting Agenda. Each teammate gets a turn to share what they’ve accomplished, what they’re actively working on, and where they might be stuck. A task might be considered Stuck if it's reliant on somebody else to finish something first.
 

How-To

Each teammate spends 1–2 minutes briefly sharing only what’s changed on their tasks since the previous meeting. This stage should also move quickly. If there have been no changes to a particular task, the speaker can say, “no change.” All teammates should add Agenda items to the queue as questions or topics for discussion are sparked by any teammate’s update.

What it sounds like: a teammate might say, “last week I delivered three trainings, this week I’m focused on refreshing the training materials from the feedback we received, and I’m stuck on integrating the new content from the product team, which I’ve added to the Agenda to discuss.” 

Facilitator Tips

  • Asking questions to clarify a task’s status are permitted, however…
  • ...if the group starts discussing plans, create an Agenda item and move on

Team Tips

  • Have tasks in your Stuck column? Get help! Add an item to the meeting’s Agenda to help move that task forward
  • Forget to add something to your board before the meeting? Use the "+" at the top of each column to add a task during your Solo Update
  • Update your cards often, both to prioritize your efforts, and for team transparency

Team Agenda

Up to this point, the meeting has focused on building situational awareness. In this stage, the team uses this understanding to generate, process, and prioritize the list of Agenda topics, which will be discussed and unpacked into a plan to be used until the next meeting.
 

How-To

A moment is given at the beginning of Agenda Processing to add to the list of agenda topics. Agenda items entered by participants might be, “new feature,” “client lunch,” “animated gif”, “documentation,” and so on. It’s perfectly fine if the agenda items are entered in shorthand; it’s simply a note to jog that person's memory when it’s time to discuss their topic.

When an adequate agenda has been assembled, and the team has collectively prioritized the discussion order, the Facilitator advances through each agenda item in turn. The Facilitator always begins by asking the agenda item’s author, “what do you need?” The goal of each agenda topic is to reach clarity, and generate new task cards.

Facilitator Tips

  • If the agenda item’s author is having a hard time moving on, ask “what’s the first step?”
  • Sometimes the first step is, “meeting scheduled with @SoAndSo to discuss topic

Team Tips

  • If you create tasks with a past tense verb, it’s easier to know when they are done. Consider how clear the completion state of the task “presentation created” is, vs. “create a presentation”
  • Add agenda items to your team’s queue any time before, during, or between meetings—whenever you think of something that needs to be discussed with the team to move your work forward

Meeting Summary

The closing screen of the Action Meeting process is a simple summary of the meeting’s activities and new cards created. This summary is emailed to all teammates, including those who were unable to attend.
 

How-To

After all agenda items have been processed the Facilitator will advance to “End Meeting”, which automatically generates the summary.

Facilitator Tips

  • Don’t forget to hit “End Meeting”! Teammates will not be able to access the team Dashboard while a meeting is in the active state. (Meetings do automatically time out after 1 hour of inactivity, in case you forget.)

Team Tips

  • Immediately after each Action Meeting, while team discussion is fresh in your mind, review your new cards on your Team Dashboard and prioritize or add due dates relative to the other new work on the board.
  • In addition, it’s good practice to quickly review your My Dashboard view, so you can prioritize new tasks relative to your existing workload across all teams.
  • Action Meeting summaries are useful references for any team that has a habit (or requirement) of reporting on their team’s progress internally, publicly, or to clients.