How big companies made their meetings suck less

Not long ago, we explained a scenario that occurred in Weekdone’s office and encouraged you to try out teamwork without meetings for just one week. Did you ditch the meeting? If so, how did you manage?

Alright, it’s hard to go “cold turkey” right away. You’re not fooling anyone here by saying you cancelled all meetings for the week. And, truth to be told, we also had 3 meetings. But the difference is that we followed strict agenda and time frame. We eliminated impromptu meetings. You know the ones without a clear objective? We also used the right tools that helped us not only stay mindful; but also informed about each others current tasks.

Although we have always built our team meetings around our weekly reports, this time we made sure to move on to important issues and not repeat anything that was already said in the document. In addition, we used the tools provided in the fun interactive Team Meeting Toolbox. This helped improve productivity and commit to efficiency. Taking into consideration the little changes we made, we were able to spot the difference.

One week might be small period to spot a positive trend that is here to stay, but we are being hopeful. We will definitely keep you updated when a month or even two have passed and we’ve been able to keep up the strict policy. As for now, comparing our weekly dashboards, it is clear that the previous week has been more productive.

This is our team’s dashboard for the week of 15.May – 21.May:

Weekdone's team weekly report (15.May - 21.May)
Weekdone’s team weekly report (15.May – 21.May)

This is the team’s dashboard for previous week, 22.May – 28.May:

Weekdone's team weekly report (22.May - 28.May)
Weekdone’s team weekly report (22.May – 28.May)

I know, these positive changes in Weekscore and overdue items are probably dependent on other variables as well, but I would like to think that they also reflect the new meetings order. We were more focused on the tasks that were agreed upon and spent extra hours on overdue items rather than on meetings. The only way to get things done, is to start acting rather than discussing. So, as the week went by, 3 overdue items were cleared and the new objective for the next week is, evidently, 0.

Nonetheless, more analysis is needed to see whether new meetings restrictions truly have an effect.

Okay, now onto the reason you’re here. No, Weekdone is not a “big company” per se. But we wanted to showcase that it’s almost impossible to avoid every single meeting. However, there are some great tactics that big enterprises are using to make the meetings suck less.

On that note, we have interviewed our clients and gathered few case studies. Here are four companies that have made an effort to change their meeting culture:

1.) Google

When Larry Page retook the reins at Google, he sent a company-wide email to explain how effective meetings must be run. It explained that the meetings at Google needed to resemble a hungry start-up meetings.

This meant that every meeting needs to have one clear decision maker. If there is no decision maker or the meeting agenda does not foresee a decision – the meeting should be canceled.

Additionally, in any kind of meeting, no more than 10 people should attend. With more people come more opinions, and a lack of focus that tends to stretch the meeting to hours long conversation. At Google, every person at a meeting has to give input, otherwise they shouldn’t be there.

Nevertheless, no decision should ever wait for a meeting. If it is crucial to have a meeting before a decision is made, it has to happen now.

2.) The Whole Foods Market

Michael Luther from the Whole Foods Market, whose team supports over 10 000 team members, said that they improved their meeting time by using Weekdone’s weekly reports. In an interview with him, he said that:

We have found that Weekdone has improved our meetings – we are able to move to more strategic discussions since we can go to Weekdone to read our goals and accomplishments from the past week. We also love reading our Lessons Learned.

So, these boring weekly status meetings can be turned into amazing learning experiences when the whole team is on the same page. Knowing what others in the team have achieved, what they are struggling with and what tasks are still on the table is an invaluable knowledge. This knowledge itself does not bring much value if you refuse to leverage it.

So, in a meeting, stop asking the “what” questions: what have you been doing? what is troubling you? But rather concentrate on the deeper meaning and on the “why” in order to move towards greater learning.

3.) University of California at Berkley

After observing a troubling trend of meetings lacking a key decision, University of California at Berkley started to announce the meeting’s purpose at the outset. Staff is expected to begin every meeting with a single statement: “The purpose of this meeting is to inform you about X, to discuss Y and to decide on Z,” where Z is a specific, well-defined decision.

This strategy encourages attendees to move from the “inform” items to pre-reading materials whenever possible. The best part about it, it is a simple way of focusing a meeting on a particular decision. The meeting will have a clear focus and outcome.

4.) Pennington & Bailes

Pennington & Bailes, which designs and manufactures clothing for the discerning “sports enthusiast”, has also witnessed more focused meeting times while using weekly status reports. In an interview with Stephanie Bailes, she says:

We have built a team meeting around our weekly report which is fulfilling our need for increased focus and communications.

These reports can act as weekly meeting agendas. The topics that must be discussed might be the challenges that team members face or strategic tasks. What is more, it is not necessary to introduce the problem, since the team is well aware. Therefore, heading straight to the why, team is able to start focusing on the possible causes and solutions.

All in all, it is important to make a difference between a crucial and unimportant meeting. Stop wasting time on unproductive meetings that cost thousands of dollars. Instead, use appropriate guidelines, methodologies or online tools, like Weekdone, to achieve maximum from your time.