Meetings are often non productive and get in the way of actually doing any work.
I have often been heard to say “If you want to avoid a decision then, form a committee”.
Like everything else it works differently at CMX Business Computing. It works probably because we are all at the coal face and we don’t need a meeting just to stop working and look at another issue.
Our system won’t work for everyone but it does for us, and a variation might just work for you too.
What is a meeting?
Meetings are planned ahead, the topic decided, the location and attendees are chosen and it happens, those who don’t want to be there are bored and often decisions are dictated to the assembled or fudged. Meetings can be training sessions which isn’t a meeting at all.
When I had eighteen sales people I organised that every Friday at 4:30 we would have a sales meeting, it would last 30 minutes, I would collect the expenses claims and pay out last weeks. I thought I was being clever for the following reasons;
- It would always start on time, in case it ran late
- Everyone would be there, to collect expenses
- It would end on time, promptly at 5pm
- It avoided the POETS (Push Off Early Tomorrow is Saturday
It fulfilled my requirements as listed above but I didn’t account for the fact that the attendees were adults and being treated like this caused resentment. I was often ambushed with stupid requests such as ” we all want personalised Cross biro’s”, “We want an employee / family / friend purchase scheme at less than trade price”, “We all want company 4×4’s”, “We want a sports day”. These are genuine, I had to explain why not, whoosh- time gone.Sales people’s target met, expenses and nothing else, my aims didn’t even rate.
In forgetting that I was dealing with sales people, reps (meaning reptile not representative), I had forgotten that these guys were trained to be one step ahead and we had managed to be ahead of them up till now. I would never let any business proposal go out without it being approved by technical and financial directors to avoid “selling anything at any price” which is so common elsewhere. Everyone hated this extra pre-sales burden and pressure because the timescale had to be unaffected. but it made for happy customers.
This resentment eventually saw its outlet in the weekly Friday meeting, they hated it, I hated it even more and the other directors wouldn’t attend as it was a sales meeting.
Luckily the type of business changed, all the salesmen went, No-one wanted sales demonstrations anymore, All the sales were being done through support engineers who were at the coalface being asked questions they honestly answered. New clients were attended to by directors, we left our cosy offices and desks and went out there doing what we reallydid best, using our knowledge and experience and managing less.
The new Start
The business changed, instead of everyone arriving for work and going off, we split into two main offices and everyone could work and start from home. This meant we met each other less, our systems sent out the work. The specialists each had their own permanently allocated clients they looked after and we introduced a no-overtime system. If you need to be somewhere for an extra half hour, then don’t leave and return next day, stay and complete the work and then take the time off next day or week, this saved wasting time travelling.
If the work wasn’t being done or hours cut then it soon becomes apparent. We also “teamed” everyone in groups of three. If you wanted a holiday then OK it with the others first, if you needed help call on them, effectively we have several small groups, all working together.
They are all adults now
What we did was simple, everyone was being treated as a responsible adult team member. Its self regulating but the biggest change was meetings. We binned them because we changed the nature. They became “get-togethers” and “briefings”.
We have a period 9-10 am every Wednesday when at least two out of three directors get together. If no-one else comes we talk about marketing, planning or anything we want to with the business. Anyone from CMX can attend as long as they say so 24 hours before and say why, this is then circulated to everyone and they either turn up mob-handed or just the individual. Sometime its a moan that needs sorting, sometimes its an idea. The topic is always published so everyone at CMX can own what is happening.
The other thing is briefings. These are once a year and are to do with the direction of the company. An example was last year, Micrsoft discontinued SBS and we spend months looking at this as it is adversely impacting small businesses, it came up on Wednesday’s quite often. The result was a decision to change the company from a Microsoft house selling software with a bit of Linux on the side to a 50/50 Microsoft and Linux business installing open-source software.
A day was chosen for everyone in the company to be briefed, we chose a neutral site, I invited a guest speaker to perform the presentation and I went away for a week.
The idea was that the presentation was delivered by someone who could do it differently. I don’t drone on but sometimes my infectious, extrovert exuberant style sometimes “over-runs”. Everyone knew I was away and that they would have to wait ten days for the next “get together”. This allowed them to debate it all, there was no prejudgement as it didn’t come from a top down diktat. It wasnt critical as I went away. It was all explained as a need, a challenge, something we were already doing, the UNIX guys became excited at having new people to talk to and the Microsoft guys lost thier despondency at a lost market.
We don’t pay commission, we just, do what we do as enthusiastic, knowledgeable experts. They don’t have overbearing management, they are trusted, involved and feel that they are a part and own Cmx’s success.
They are treated as adults and realise that the Cmx directors face the same challenges they do. That’s why we don’t have “meetings” we have “get togethers” and “briefings”.