By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder
Over the last 4 years working closely with some of the world's most talented programmers, designers and data scientists, I've come to understand one simple truth:
Productive People Require Long Periods
Of Focused Work to Optimize Productivity
If this seems terribly obvious, it is. Yet, still many of our greatest technology organizations continue to waste thousands of hours of their most talented people's time in pointless meetings. According to Altassian, the average American employee spends 62 hours a month in meetings, half of which are complete wastes of time.
For managers, meetings are mission critical. It is during meetings that we plan, mentor, hold accountable, align, check-in, etc.. But for the 80% of people in an organization who actually do the heavy lifting (sorry, low blow -- especially coming from a manager), most meetings are time lost.
Unfortunately, most organizations spend their time trying to figure out "how to make meetings more useful" for everyone. That's code word for "make meetings less painful." At 10x, we recommend a different tactic. Instead of making the meetings you have work better, how about just having fewer meetings? And if you do have meetings have them at the right time.
Why to Have (or not Have) Meetings
In my experience working with elite teams of coders, designers, and data scientists, there are only a couple reasons to have a meeting and they all have to do with gaining input and coming to agreement on the best solution.
Reasons to have a meeting:
1) Agree on WHAT we're building and WHAT the goals and objectives are
2) Agree on HOW we are going to build it and HOW long it will take
3) Agree on WHO does what to get it built
4) True brainstorming sessions when the collective intelligence can beat the individual
Having everyone in the room for these crucial decisions that affect the what, how, and who of your projects makes perfect sense. Effective meetings can leave you energized with a feeling that you've accomplished something by providing solid input and reaching an agreement on the best solution. Conversely, NOT having agreement can lead to mistakes and loss of money, time and failed products.
Most importantly, meetings that are productive focus on the work that needs to be done, leveraging the brains and personalities of your team, and working towards your long-term outcomes.
Then there are NOT good reasons to have a meeting (via types of meetings, etc.):
1) Standing Meetings. We always have meetings on Tuesdays (or whenever your "standing" meetings are). Regularly scheduled meetings are great for making sure people block out time, but often we lack critical information or someone can't make it. If the meeting won't be productive, cancel it and reschedule for another time.
2) Stand Up Meetings. Stating publicly what one is working on for the day. When information flows are organized correctly, every team member knows when and how he or she has to report to the manager. Therefore, there shouldn't be a need for these meetings.
3) Status Updates. Status updates from every department, every time. This is where each person speaks for 3 minutes at a time and then zones out for 57 minutes. If you must have this type of meeting, try one department at a time so you're not wasting other people's time.
4) To justify someone's existence. Enough said.
When to Have Meetings
Great, now that we know why to have and not to have meetings, the last thing to cover is WHEN to have meetings. I won't tell you HOW to run a meeting. There's a lot written about that. But WHEN to have meetings is an easy one:
1) First thing in the morning, before people are knee deep in other things
That's it. First thing in the morning is the ONLY good time to bring your team together for a meeting.
So, there you have it. My advice: Have few meetings, and have them first thing in the morning. Easy peasy. Of course there's always necessary exceptions to the rule, I suggest getting feedback from your team and use your best judgment.
Looking for tips on productivity, check out Go With The Flow.