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Want an OD Initiative That REALLY Has Impact? Mandate Meetings Can Last 30 Minutes Max...

Organizational Design (OD) initiatives are a tricky thing for HR pros.  After all, we're generally focused on executing all the stuff that has to get done in our organizations, and if by chance we do find time to get to the value added OD initiative, we're not OD specialists.  Which means that research and planning is always required to be credible when launching anything of the OD variety.

But... and there is a but... OD doesn't have to be that complex.  In fact, there's a giant productivity-suck staring you and your company in the face today that could be easily tweaked with an OD initiative that could be researched, launched and executed in under one week. 

Your meetings are way too long.

Simple right?  How many times do you get meeting requests for an hour of your time?  What % of the meeting requests do you receive that are 60 minutes vs. 30 minutes?  I'd challenge the system and say that the percentage of 60 minute meetings vs. 30 minute meetings is way too high in most organizations.  You should do something about that, and find an executive champion at the C-level who thinks it's out of control as well.

Why's this on my mind?  I got a note from Chris Hoyt (aka TheRecruiterGuy) last night regarding the upcoming Social Recruiting Summit put on by ERE (September 13th at the Microsoft HQ in Seattle - join us!), where Chris is hosting and I'm leading a session.  Chris encouraged us to schedule time with him if we needed to talk about anything via a tool called TimeBridge.  It's one of those automated scheduling solutions that aims to put the last remaining 56 administrative assistants operating below the C-suite in America out of work.  I clicked over to the TimeBridge blog and found the following entry:

"It has been about a month and a half since we first happily stuck our necks out to announce the end of the 60-minute meeting standard, and to propose 45-minutes as the new more efficient default meeting length. To commemorate we thought this was a perfect time to let you know what has happened since May 12, 2010….

Well, we have been amazed by the response. Not only have you written hundreds of positive comments to us and offered your own meeting efficiency rules for the community to consider, you’ve also actually changed your habits and embraced the movement. In fact, in March and April 2010, 52% of meetings scheduled and completed through TimeBridge were scheduled for 60 minutes and only 5% were for 45 minutes. At the end of May 2010 only 29% of meetings were scheduled for 60 minutes and 30% for 45 minutes. What this means is that in just a few weeks the percent of 45-minute meetings has grown by 6X! Wow indeed.

If you like pictures, take a gander."


The simple version of what the TimeBridge people did? They changed the default meeting length setting in their software from 60 minutes to 45 minutes.  You can see the results, which assuming meetings don't run over, means the organization just got a lot of time back.  Remember, when you schedule an hour meeting with 5 people, you're not taking an hour away from other things in the organization - you're taking 5 hours.  Which means all organizations should challenge themselves to be as efficient as possible.

What about you?  All upscale HR and Talent pros want to make a difference.  Are you brave enough to start a campaign to make the default meeting time in your organization 30 minutes?  Are you brave enough to set it up where people can't choose something longer?

If you've got the guts, it might be the biggest OD initiative/win in your lifetime.

Play to win. Be the ball, Danny...


Paul Hebert

I love this. Like the Heath bros said in switch - sometimes changing the environment (in this case the default setting) can get the outcome you want.

I'd like to see more companies look at systems and process before they get to the "we need an incentive" to make this happen.

Now the question is ... what other systems force by default non-productive behaviors?

Kevin W. Grossman

Right on, brother. I'm right there with you. And, I should check out TimeBridge as well...

Holly MacDonald

I did a very non-scientific assessment of a department and meeting tim (we were having a hard time getting things done). We determined between department level, team, one-on-one and other intra-dept meetings there was the equivalent of 12 FTE worth of time being spent by a 65 person department. That number got noticed. Meetings chnged, but am no longer at the organization, so can't tell you if it stuck, but it sure got me to the table.

Janna Rust

I love to talk about increasing efficiency through better meetings. I'm wondering how much time might be saved if meetings started on time. Most people have probably really been having 45 minutes meetings anyway!


Like it. Someone asked about other ideas? Take the chairs away! Make everyone stand.

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