'No chairs allowed' and other meeting rules from industry giants

'No chairs allowed' and other meeting rules from industry giants

TOKYO —

Business meetings: is there any more frustrating part of cubicle life? Sure, they are a necessity for lots of reasons, but who hasn’t sat through some interminable meeting thinking how much more they could be getting accomplished back at their desk? There’s something about the meeting format that is just ripe for time-wasting, getting off track, arguments and pointless exercises.

Large corporations have to know how to reign that wastefulness in to be successful, so we took a look at how some of the biggest companies in the world keep their meetings fast and efficient. Read on for their rules to meet by.

Nissan: the counter-intuitive approach

The rules at Nissan were not suggested by some outside management consultants, but were developed and approved by actual Nissan employees, under the initiative of CEO Carlos Ghosn.

—Do not take down minutes. At the end of the meeting, the things that have been written down on the whiteboard are photographed and distributed as meeting minutes so it’s not necessary to take individual notes.

—The boss may not attend. If the boss, that is to say the highest ranking member who has decision-making power, attends a meeting, it would be hard for lower-ranking people to voice dissenting opinions. He or she could also change the topic, derailing discussion, and no one would be able to object. So Nissan decided to exclude that person.

Google: accommodating unique work styles

Google is known for its unique and individualistic atmosphere. Of course, its meetings reflect that.

—Discussion of a project or topic is limited to 5 or 10 minutes. This rule was put in pace to prevent whole days being eaten up by meetings. The scheduling also prevents having a pointless breaks during long meetings that just waste time.

—Decision-making meetings are limited to 10 people. It’s more efficient to collect opinions beforehand and then meet to decide the matter.

Canon: ditch the chairs and computers

Canon became famous when its president got rid of all their office chairs and some computers at meetings. Of course, their meetings are conducted on their feet as well.

—No chairs or computers allowed. This supposedly keeps meetings short and fast-paced. According to the company, this has reduced time spent in meetings by half and upped the pace of problem solving.

Gurunavi: the bring your hobby to work approach

Gurunavi is Japan’s biggest and best known restaurant search engine. They’ve had some unexpected results from encouraging a health-related hobby.

—Meetings can be held while walking the 70-min course around the Imperial Palace. This custom began when an older employee started walking the course for his health and asked some younger coworkers to join him. The company says the exercise stimulated the brain, which makes it easier to come up with new ideas. It has the additional advantage that it’s hard to hear what people are saying unless you are right next to them, so it’s a good time to discuss confidential or delicate matters.

Kirin Beer: old dog, new trick

This venerable company has been adopting new and unique approaches.

—Hold 60-minute Q&A meetings. These meetings are not Q&A in the traditional sense, but rather a form of collective problem solving. A questioner brings a problem, and the group just suggests possible answers.

Hatena: Users welcome

Web services provider already has a reputation for having a very liberal corporate culture, but you might be surprised to know users are invited to their meetings.

—You will take requests from users and implement them. In the user participation meetings, requests from users are separated into four categories: implement right away, implement at some point, pending, and finished, allowing the company to better manage user feedback.

Mitsubishi Industries: time managers

Mitsubishi Industries famously instituted a policy of locking their doors at 7PM to insure employees went home on time. They also have a very strict time limit on meetings.

—You must reach a conclusion within an hour. Given this limitation on time, employees have started to distribute materials ahead of time leaving the meeting solely for discussion purposes.

Well, folks, there you have it. I can see the sense in some of these suggestions, but others seem a tad draconian. Do you think these rules would work at your office? Or do you have rules of your own that might surprise us?

Source: Naver Matome
Image: Gizmodo

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  • -2

    gaijinfo

    Sure, they are a necessity for lots of reasons

    Mostly so the boss can throw his weight around and show who's boss.

  • 7

    gaijinfo

    Mitsubishi Industries famously instituted a policy of locking their doors at 7PM to insure employees went home on time.

    Funny, I've worked with plenty of Mitsubishi employees, and not only do most of them NEVER leave before 10 PM, they amount of time spent in meetings is obscene. They have meetings to prepare for other meetings.

  • 1

    SimondB

    If you want to extend the meeting by another hour just before it ends mention that you want the air conditioning turned up/down/off. The indepth discussion will be clearly drawn along gender lines and you will end up with heaters and cool air on at the same time along with various bits of cardboard taped to the ceiling to divert cold air away from someone who still needs a heater on in May.

  • 2

    papigiulio

    @gaijinfo: I can assure you, not only Mitsubishi.

    Id like to work for a day at the facebook or google HQ, I heard their working environment is superb.

  • -4

    Twixt

    Some of these "solutions" are like something you would tell a child. "Now Timmy, you are spending too much time playing your DS. From now on you need to stand on one leg while playing."

  • 3

    gogogo

    Mitsubishi Industries famously instituted a policy of locking their doors at 7PM to insure employees went home on time. They also have a very strict time limit on meetings.

    Sounds like the best solution yet!

  • 3

    Mocheake

    My company's meetings: Let one old oyaji talk for 15 minutes or so to show how smart he is and to talk about how hard people worked during the Bubble Years. After that, berate us for the company's lackluster performance and for not working hard enough.

  • 1

    Zen student

    Canon: ditch the chairs and computers

    Sounds a bit extreme, doesn't it? Mind you, sometimes I would prefer standing to the kiddies chairs I have to sit on at work. Seriously, they are so low they give you a sore back.

  • 5

    badmigraine

    Law firms have discovered the best way to keep meetings short: you have a crushing annual billable hour requirement to record on your daily timesheet as hours that can actually be billed to a paying client. It usually takes about 12 hours' work to generate 7-8 billable hours. As a result of this, after many years at a global law firm, I can't remember a single meeting that lasted more than 10 minutes, and the average was probably 2-3 minutes perched on a chair in someone's office with people seemingly spring-loaded leave as soon as possible, to go and do some REAL work.

    Exception: meetings where you get free lunch.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    "—Do not take down minutes. At the end of the meeting, the things that have been written down on the whiteboard are photographed and distributed as meeting minutes so it’s not necessary to take individual notes."

    I believe TEPCO did something like this in some of the meetings they claimed took place but they had no records for. They're obviously not going to write down a lot of negatives, so this is ridiculous.

    "Canon became famous when its president got rid of all their office chairs and some computers at meetings. Of course, their meetings are conducted on their feet as well."

    Great! Present ideas with chalk and blackboard, and have people write things down with pen and paper, bending over a table until they develop sciatica. Power point? Downloading notes and data? NO WAY!

  • 1

    cubic

    smith

    Power point? Downloading notes and data? NO WAY!

    PowerPoint is generally a massive waste of time, apart from at say sales meetings with clients, etc where you need to present an idea in a sort of aesthetically pleasing way. For internal meetings it is just a waste of time - see the one page project manager for a WAY more efficient way to plan/explain anything.

  • 0

    Morry

    I've been to so many dumbass meetings that it's hard too even think about them without getting depressed. I just sit there shaking my head, thinking "Why are you people such idiots?"

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