Apple keeps meetings small and focused
At Apple, because quality is stressed over quantity, meetings are informal and visible progress is made on a weekly -- if not daily -- basis.
In one large technology company with which I worked, I found a framed sign in every conference room designed to nudge the employees toward greater productivity. The headline on the sign was how to have a successful meeting. The content read like it came right out of a corporate manual, which it likely did. It featured a bullet-pointed list of things like "State the agenda at the start of your meeting," "Encourage participation by all attendees," and "Conclude your meeting with agreement on next steps."
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If big companies really feel compelled to put something on their walls, a better sign might read:
How to Have a Great Meeting
1. Throw out the least necessary person at the table.
2. Walk out of this meeting if it lasts more than 30 minutes.
3. Do something productive today to make up for the time you spent here.
Whatever your motivation, what you're really saying is that you don't have the right people on the job. So fix that. When populated by the smartest people, small groups will give management more confidence, not less.
Apple's advertising agency -- Chiat/Day, before it merged with TBWA Worldwide -- succeeded by the same philosophy. I was a creative director, and our small group matched up well with Apple's small group. Limiting the size of our group helped us produce work quickly, get information fast and have the agility to react to unexpected events.
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The agency's founder, the late Jay Chiat, had set a similar tone decades earlier. Jay and Steve had a unique relationship in the days of the original Macintosh. I had the pleasure of being personally ejected from a meeting by Jay during one of my several stints at Chiat/Day. Surveying the room before the start of a meeting, Jay took one look at my art director partner and me and said, "What are you guys doing here?" "Beats me," I said. "We're just responding to the invitation." Jay told us to get out and "go create something."
The working styles of both Jay and Steve have stuck with me over the years. I can think of no better examples of leaders with a talent for keeping their teams focused on the mission and focused on producing great results. And both built spectacularly successful businesses. It's not a coincidence.
This article is an edited excerpt from Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success (Portfolio/Penguin, 2012) by Ken Segall.
This article originally posted on Entrepreneur.com