Charging your own employees for the things they think they need to be productive feels like a bad way to try to involve the invisible hand of the market in your business.
(e.g. I sure hope you don’t employ anyone who has to spend most or all of their money on things they need to live (like medication, tuition fees, paying off debts) — or anyone who might be ‘disadvantaged’ in any sense of the term — because they might find they suddenly now can’t afford a meeting, even if their work honestly requires it!)
Do you also charge employees for the equipment they need to work? I get the “thought exercise”, but it’s certainly not sustainable, and might be actively harmful.
A few recurring ‘catch-ups’ were cancelled, in favour of on-demand discussions, only “if there was something specific to talk about.”
This sounds like a non-goal to me. In my experience, regular catch-ups are extremely important in keeping everyone on the same page without there needing to be a bad event to trigger it (i.e. two teams only realise they diverge on a spec when they can’t reconcile their changes, as opposed to it coming up naturally), and even more important in keeping the humans involved in the company feeling happy and connected. I hear that’s good for productivity.
Perhaps some internal currency would work. I think the key point here is making explicit that this is a trade-off. Everyone ‘gets’ it, but having a number somewhere, even simply putting on a board with everyone’s name and how many hours they have been in meetings, could be an eye-opener.
I was imagining it would be paid out of the different areas' budgets, ie. Project A has to pay $32 to Project B and C for an hour of time for a few employees.
But when I read it I think they literally mean out of the employee’s wallet.
Making employees pay personally sounds like a very bad idea. But having departments or teams pay out of their budget is acceptable since it attaches a cost to using other people’s time without penalizing employees for their personal financial situation. I like your idea of transferring the money within the company. You don’t really “spend” the money. It just gets to be used by another department.
Unfortunately you could just give the money back and forth daily between two companies, it might need a “vat/gst” percentage that goes to the end of year party too, to take some funds out of the system.
Ah, good point… smacks forehead
I think that idea would probably be just as effective, yes, without it impacting certain people disproportionately.
I remember seeing this idea on 43 folders back in the day - Meeting Tokens - Apparently they were on sale for a time, but the Mule store is gone now, so I guess it didn’t catch on…
In my experience the least productive meetings are the ones called by people who would just ignore tokens anyway, including customers & external partners.
Ooh ooh! I have an idea. Make developers pay for their own QA.
It would definitely increase the code quality!
I’m just very skeptical that it could work in most companies. Meetings are about power. Status meetings hold a double entendre, in that they exist to reinforce the (social) status of the person demanding the meeting. A small economic cost isn’t going to fix the flaws in human nature that result in too many meetings.
Sure, in the right kind of culture, it sets a tone of, “Hey, don’t waste people’s time.” On the other hand, in the wrong kind of culture, it will do absolutely nothing and possibly create a new trophy for management-types (“I spent $120 on meetings this week, how’d you do?”) if they follow the policy at all (and most management types will just say “fuck that” to this idea).
Besides, how does one define a meeting? Certainly, one shouldn’t expect the new developer to pony up every time he has to ask for help. That would just be abusive.
So, it seems like this might keep the plebs in line, but it’s not a real protection against management. In fact, the golden-child/“dotted line” types, the ones who tend to delegate and call meetings inappropriately but get away with it because of favoritism, will even be more effective at ingratiating themselves up the chain because they’re sacrificing something (“for the good of the team”) when they call meetings.
I feel like (from this and a wider pattern of posts) is a single mental model to a complex system. It’s not that I think it’s a bad model to have (quite the opposite; I enjoy hearing it and it’s broadened my perspective some) but in situations like this it feels like it drives some pretty wild, unsupported claims.
Meetings are about power
I’ve been in a few of those meetings in my career but it’s been far from the norm.
The idea that blowing up your budget will make you look good because you’re “sacrificing something” sounds like it requires politically competent middle management with financially incompetent upper management. I don’t think that’s a stable configuration.
“Dotted line” types who insist on proper process being followed care a lot about their budgets.
I see where you’re coming from, but I wanted to call this bit out in particular:
regular catch-ups are extremely important in keeping everyone on the same page
My experience has been that, for technical matters, design docs (on some kind of wiki) are way better than meetings for keeping devs on the same page, along with corrective explanations from team leaders or coworkers. For nontechnical stuff, there is some benefit to having a more narrow definition of “everyone”.
For example, there is nothing more frustrating than being in a meeting listening to business people who both clearly don’t know what the fuck they’re doing (in regards to marketing, product design, or fundraising) and who are also repeatedly telling skeptical devs “don’t worry, we got this”.
That’s the sort of thing you can avoid by having like a team lead sit in on, and then report back to his team so they don’t have to lose morale first-hand. The inquisitive souls can find out more out-of-band, and everybody else gets more time to do development work or anything else that’s more fulfilling.
I used to be very staunchly anti-meeting (I ordered several of these and hung them around the office), but over time I’ve come to see the value of them, especially in remote settings. 1:1s can occasionally seem like a waste of time but are in general very important. Unstructured “hanging out time” between two people can lead to very productive side-tangents. Further, having regular face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) meetings with clients can provide unstructured time to generally synchronize on things or ask questions.
I was astonished when a regular meeting with a client began to uncover significant differences in how our teams understood a potential project. While nominally a ‘status update’ meeting, the slot for unstructured time allowed us to explore a topic enough to rapidly get on the same page – had this been done over email, confusion would have taken over instead of clarity.
The trick seems to be to stay away from regular ‘status-updatey’ meetings, and move toward ‘tell me how you’re feeling about X’ meetings. Those are the ones where you learn what people are afraid of, what people are happy about, and what is being left unsaid. These are the kinds of things that don’t transmit well over email. You also want to make sure each side is invested enough that they’d show up even if they didn’t feel obligated. Part of that is taking things seriously – being on time, almost never cancelling, etc.
1:1s can occasionally seem like a waste of time but are in general very important.
This has been my discovery since working remote too — chatting with my manager face to face without a particular reason, even just once a month, has always been such a positive experience, and I’m usually left at the end with a burst of new ideas, things I want to try, good feedback, and just feeling that little bit closer to my manager (and the company as a whole). Not something I’d ever want to lose!
I had a client that had the policy that anyone could raise a topic of importance and call a meeting on it at any time (“I’m feeling bad about this”). Then, anyone who took interest in the subject would join that person - but no more then two people.
They would discuss it shortly and if it was a topic or finding of wider importance would then maybe raise it to the others. It worked great, because anyone could express their need for discussion at any time. It happened regularly, but usually, these meetings were also very short.
Also, they were the only client that had a strict “if you have no interest in the outcomes of the meeting, just don’t join, but also don’t complain about the outcomes” approach.
I think this is attacking a real problem I see in most places I’ve worked (too many meetings) but not in a way that actually gets to what the author actually wants: more output. Making meetings shorter and more pointed doesn’t mean your employees are going and spending their time delivering. That wasn’t even discussed in this post. If you want to get people to deliver more, reward them for delivering. If you want to reward people for delivering, you need to figure out how to measure their output. Once you do that, useless meetings will tend to disappear.
I don’t remember where I saw it but I remember reading a study that found directly rewarding for output tends to produce less creative work and people became less self motivated. Be careful of unintended side effects when choosing your metrics.
My current employer is against any kind of bonus structure. Your reward for a job well done is a your salary and a pat on the back. The results are not particularly great. In particular, they have a hard time making sure important work gets done because they have no tool for incentivizing people to do the crap work. One problem in particular is that the person that does little gets roughly the same reward (within an order of magnitude) as the person that busts their butt. Occasionally we lose the people that bust their butt once they realize that. Either they stop performing or they go someplace else.
My previous employer had bonuses and they were in a worse place than my current employer. They chose to incentivize really bad ideas. Producing a bunch of technical debt was bonus worthy. The people that had the skills to increase the value of that company considerably were not rewarded and ended up leaving within 6 months of each other in a pretty massive exodus.
The thing is: you’re rewarding output no matter what, even if it’s just not being fired. That’s the nature of capitalism and working. I’m just saying you have to be thoughtful about how you do it. @fcbsd’s link is about incentive plans not working but all of work is an incentive plan, there is no way to escape it.
Possibly this: https://hbr.org/1993/09/why-incentive-plans-cannot-work
I don’t like most of this, but I like this:
the default hour long meetings dropped to 30 minutes instead
I do utterly reject the idea of having employees pay out of their own pocket for holding meetings.
I like the thing about reducing the list of people involved, and better agendas. I have a policy of rejecting meeting invites that don’t have an agenda. (I make some exceptions, such as for 1-1s etc.)
A friend used to produce an estimate of meeting cost based on his estimate of salaries of the people attending and the length of the meeting, and provide this to the organiser.
£2 per hour is a give away - even on my low salary an hour of my time is worth about 8 times that :~)
Then dont invite 8 people to a meeting for an hour… you wont make any money that hour.
Fortunately, we have enough remote employees that the majority of meetings have a google hang out or a webex. Most meetings, I just stay at my desk and listen in.