While Albert Einstein was one of the 20th century’s greatest minds, he may also be the perfect example of the absentminded professor. The legendary physicist once phoned Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study, where he had his office, and actually asked the operator to give him directions to his own home. He failed to identify himself, and the phone operator told him she wasn’t allowed to give Einstein’s personal information to strangers.
“But this is Professor Einstein,” he finally said, “and I don’t remember the number.” Einstein may have overlooked the ordinary details of daily life (like his address or even combing his hair), but that’s because he was focused on solving bigger things like the universe’s greatest mysteries!
Every team would benefit from being a little more like Einstein, especially when it comes to meeting objectives and agendas. Projects can be extremely exciting and produce stimulating side discussions, but be honest: Are these issues really on-task or not? If they aren’t, they’re bound to slow down the current sprint.
Beware of peripheral topics and challenges. You don’t want to discourage your team’s sense of creativity and their interest in discussing issues, but it is prudent to stay focused on the current agenda.
- Redirect and channel your team’s attention rather than discourage ambition and initiative
- Establish ground rules upfront that prohibits getting off-track on meeting topics
- Decide as a group to transform any side issue into an offline discussion or redefined task
- Assign a team member to keep track of meeting agendas or to resolve side issues