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Former Microsoft Exec Wants to Kill Pointless Meetings

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DailyFeed

You know the person bored out of their mind during a business meeting, who never looks up from scribbling on scraps of paper and only contributes the occasional loud sigh? Well, they’re now running things, and the first thing they’re killing off is that meeting.

Yes, the doodlers are fighting back.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the growing trend by new startups to cut down, if not eliminate, the amount of meetings employees must endure. That’s because any new successful business being created these days is likely to be coder-run (like Facebook (FB) or Dropbox). In other words, by someone who likes to make things.

The article references programmer and co-founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham’s 2009 essay about the “disaster” of meetings, in which he breaks down the the work styles of two types of leaders: managers and makers.

Managers play the traditional boss role and embrace the old-school management structures. They break their days up in hour-long chunks of time, going to meeting after meeting. Makers, which include engineers, programmers, and other creative fields, get completely thrown off when they must break up their work like that. They “generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least,” Graham wrote. “You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.”

All this wasted energy has a real cost, too.

For instance, former Microsoft (MSFT) software developer Paul Betts decided to calculate how much time in dollars was being wasted in the seemingly endless parade of meetings he had to attend while working at the software company. After coding a program linking his Outlook schedule, he checked the job titles of fellow attendees and estimated their salaries. He tallied it all up and arrived at the general cost of each individual sit down: $500 a pop. In a typical workweek, Betts said, he’d have “maybe 20 to 30 hours of meetings...too little is accomplished.”

Betts is now at GitHub, an 80-person startup that uses a interoffice chat room to exchange ideas and avoids face-to-face meetings entirely.  

And they’re not alone. Facebook celebrates a “No-Meeting Wednesday” to encourage engineers to stay focused all day, and Google’s (GOOG) Larry Page insists that managers outline clear goals before their meetings, which he tries to limit to 10 attendees at most.

But can you completely eliminate the in-person meeting? Can a FaceTime (AAPL) video chat cover everything without being in the same room? Do jokes about needing more coffee Monday morning translate as well online?

New startups like Asana think so. Started by two former Facebook employees, the business  productivity software claims it can cut out at least half of a company’s meetings by letting employees maintain company-wide to-do lists and easily collaborate on projects without leaving your cube.

More and more startups are embracing this new “less in-person interaction” philosophy and, in addition to freeing up many important hours that could be used more efficiently, the companies are going to save a fortune on their donut budget.  

(See also: Former Microsoft Exec Trashes Company's Bureaucratic Dysfunction)
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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