The 15 minute meeting

It’s been awhile since I blogged, but after a long 2 week vacation in Thailand I’m getting back in the saddle. Here it goes…

If you haven’t read about Google’s approach to meetings I would suggest reading this interview conducted between Businessweek and Google’s Marissa Mayer: How to Run a Meeting Like Google. It describes how Google has been able to run efficient meetings, even at a large scale.

I’ve worked in big tech for several years now and as anyone who is familiar with the business they’ll know meetings in big tech are (1) slow (2) inefficient (3) barely anything is achieved (4) can’t be less an hour and can even be more than 3 hours. I can’t tell you how many 1 to 2 hour meetings I’ve been that achieved what I felt was literally nothing. I mostly attribute this to bureaucracy, politics, and communication overhead.

Since I joined my recent job last year in September I’ve inadvertently forced myself to cut meetings down drastically. While working for a small company does help cut through some of the “BS”, it doesn’t eliminate politics and bureaucracy. I created a rule with my boss (and am now doing this with others) and it’s very simple: the meeting lasts only 15 minutes. So what is necessary to conduct a 15 minute meeting and when/how does it work?

  1. Preparation – I always go into a 15 minute meeting with bullet points of what is to be discussed. Having done this many times now I know how much can be discussed in 15 minutes and what can be left for another session or in a follow-up discussion.
  2. Strict Timings – 15 minutes. That’s it, don’t go over. No exceptions. I’ve literally stop meetings if they go over and say let’s prepare better for next time or plan another session.
  3. Follow-up – Pretty much every 15 minute meeting I’ve done has required some sort of follow-up. But this is the beauty of productivity in the 15 minute meeting. You can achieve a lot in 15 minutes, but as with even many 1-hour meetings the main focus of productivity is what happens in the follow-up actions or discussions later.
  4. Leave Politics at the door – 15 minute meetings aren’t designed to have any leeway for discussing how to build strategies for projects. They’re designed to make decisions. Often during 1-2 hour meetings I would estimate 75% of the time spent was trying to create a strategy that was needed to circumvent some sort of bureaucracy or political issue.
  5. People Need Time to Think – 1-2 hour meetings are inefficient because they don’t let people analytically think about problems. All they do is let people talk. This is bad. People make their best decisions when they can analyze data. Good business is done without emotions, 15 minutes doesn’t allow for any emotions. It’s either X or Y, YES or NO. That’s how decisions are made.