Feeling that too little gets accomplished during face-to-face meetings, some companies are choosing to forego traditional gatherings in favor of alternatives that allow employees to cooperate remotely without infringing on their time and productivity.
Reducing the number of required meetings appeals particularly to engineers and designers; it’s not surprising, therefore, that the trend is especially prominent among startup companies in technology-based areas where the focus is on output, product development and high growth.
Paul Graham, a programmer and co-founder of the tech incubator Y Combinator, notes that meetings disrupt the creative flow. “When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule,” says Graham, “meetings are a disaster. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.”
Alternative meeting formats allow colleagues to cooperate synchronously or asynchronously, saving the company both time and money. Through chat rooms or other devices, companies willing to forego sit-down meetings can organize decentralized people to cooperate on a single project or to discuss ideas.
Coder-run companies such as Facebook and Dropbox are changing the way businesses handle meetings and projects by revolutionizing employees’ routines and schedules. Nontraditional formats put more decision-making power in the hands of employees, stimulating creativity and allowing the sharing of thoughts and ideas more freely.
But the no-meetings system may have drawbacks, according to 99-year-old tech pioneer Simon Ramo. “The information technology revolution makes it possible to have more information go to more people more efficiently,” says Ramo. “More people can now be informed on topics. Therefore, more people have ideas.” He argues that this can lead to longer discussions and more meetings.
Some startups still hold occasional meetings but have set down firmer ground rules. One such company has mandated that “no meeting should ever be more than an hour, under penalty of death,” according to Jeff Atwood, co-founder of the Q&A forum Stack Exchange.
Ultimately, companies that favor traditional systems of meeting may find it difficult to hire top minds. Businesses wanting to promote faster product development and empower talented employees may need to consider trimming back required meeting attendance.
Milian, Mark. “Startups’ War on Meetings.” BusinessWeek.com. June 7, 2012. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-06-07/startups-war-on-meetings