February 2023

Thinking about purging all meetings from your teams' calendars? Think again

Don't do a Spotify

Apparently Shopify is in the midst of a “calendar purge”, requiring staff to scrap recurring meetings with more than two people attending. And all meetings are banned on Wednesdays!

Their VP Product and COO justified it by saying: “uninterrupted time is the most precious resource of a craftsperson, and we are giving our people a ‘no judgement zone’ to subtract, reject meetings, and focus on what is most valuable.” I get it, most people’s diaries are full of pointless meetings. When our calendars fill up, it leaves us little time to get work done, so a ‘purge’ sounds appealing doesn’t it? Finally, a free stretch to tick off my to-do list!

But I’d argue Shopify is missing the point. They’re definitely masking the problem. The issue, I’d suggest, is most meetings aren’t any good.I want to advocate for well-run meetings

- Meetings are the best way to get creative and come up with ideas

- Meetings are the quickest way to get aligned

- Meetings are a great way to understand what people really think and feel

- Meetings are the fastest way to make high-quality decisions

- Meetings are an important way to bring people together, create bonds, and avoid isolation

- Meetings are the most effective medium for feedback and continuous improvement

I start from the maxim that “two brains are better than one”.

I’m a big believer in cross-functionality: people from different disciplines coming together to contribute their individual expertise and perspective. The best products are made from combining technical, creative, business and customer perspectives. Sure, some of that can be tackled ‘offline’ with asynchronous communication such as email and instant messaging. But there’s nothing quite like being in the room - in person or virtually - to get inspired, create empathy for each other's views, learn from one another, bounce off each other, align in direction, or agree on action.

Let’s agree there are different types of ‘meeting’ too. Personally, I find pairing with someone to tackle a tricky problem is the best way to get unstuck. Many developers ONLY work in duos. Is two people working together on Zoom a problematic meeting? Not allowed on Wednesdays at Shopify!

I simply don’t agree the trade-off of MORE INDIVIDUAL WORK TIME against MEETINGS OF ANY KIND is the right way to be productive. It will create silos, break alignment, increase the communication overhead and, ultimately, make us less productive.

Let’s hold better meetings. Shorter meetings. Focussed meetings. More regular (but ideally not recurring) meetings. My old colleague Joe W wrote a great post on how to hold effective meetings. Simple stuff that most people forget or fail at: have an agenda, set an objective, keep to time, take notes, agree actions.

At Loomery we’re firm believers in cross-functionality, close collaboration and clear communication. That’s what powers product progress. We need more well-run meetings, not fewer.

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