Start-Ups Banish Traditional Meetings

According to a BloombergBusinessWeek article, shorter and fewer meetings are preferred in start-up companies.

Tech meetings via BusinessWeek

Business professionals are well aware of wasteful meetings, often good only for donut-eating and catching up on email. A "Meeting Cost Counter" calculates how much money (in salary) each meeting costs a company. (Download here or here.)

The BusinessWeek article argues that sit-down meetings are particularly difficult for technology workers, who need blocks of time for programming and other work. GitHub, a start-up that stores computer code, is one company where almost no face-to-face meetings take place. At Grouper, a blind-dating company, employees attend a daily morning meeting that lasts only 10 minutes, and people are required to stand.

Although someone is quoted in the article as saying, "no meeting should ever be more than an hour, under penalty of death," this seems a bit extreme. On the other hand, why are meetings scheduled for one hour by default? This is equally silly.

According to the article, traditional meetings also are problematic because they are typically led by managers. Instead, online collaboration provides a more level playing field, where employees at all levels can contribute equally.

Still, face-to-face meetings are important for certain situations. A Harvard Business Review Analytics Group survey found that managers prefer in-person meetings-even if it requires them to travel-for the following reasons (percentage of respondents follow each reason): 

  • Meet new (94%) or existing client (69%) to sell business
  • Negotiate contracts (82%)
  • Interview senior staff for key appointment (81%)
  • Understand and listen to important customers (69%)
  • Identify growth opportunity (55%)
  • Build relationships/manage geographically dispersed team (55%)
  • Initiate discussions with merger and acquisition targets (52%)
Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • In addition to those listed above, under what circumstances do you believe that face-to-face meetings are important?
  • What alternatives exist to face-to-face meetings? Which are viable options for places where you have worked?