Google’s Recipe for Effective Meetings

Graphic of clocksWhen Larry Page returned to his role as CEO of Google one of the first issues he tackled was  reestablishing effective meetings at Google. Page saw the importance of effective meetings to his vision for reintroducing the speed of a start-up at Google to improve decision making.  The strategy for effective meetings at Google was outlined in the current issue of Think Quarterly, Google’s eNewsletter.

At issues was the need for Google to return to its roots as an ambitious start-up and regaining the nimbleness in problem solving that made Google such an early success. Not surprisingly, being able to return to the days of well run and effective meetings and quick decision making was understood to be essential to Page’s vision.

So Google created a set of very simple rules for effective meetings designed to eliminate demoralizing and inefficient meetings and improve decision making.

  1. Every decision oriented meeting should have a clear decision maker, and if it didn’t, the meeting shouldn’t happen.
  2. Effective meetings for decision making should consist of no more than 10 people, and everyone who attends should provide input. If someone has no input to give, then perhaps they shouldn’t be there.
  3. Decisions should never wait for a meeting. If it’s critical that a meeting take place before a decision is made, then that meeting needs to happen right away.

Google also created an executive bullpen (think dense open offices) in its main offices where executives are required to commit time to working from every week. The bullpen created the physical environment for more informal communication between executives which in turn improved the speed of decision-making.

The article goes on to talk about other important practices at Google designed to reintroduce start-up speed in the company. The use of quarterly Objectives and Key Results, what Google refers to as OKR’s, and a culture of support for decision making on shutting down projects that dilute company focus are cited as two of those strategies.

There are lots of opinions about how to have more effective meetings and faster decision making. But in classic Google simplicity we find here a solid recipe for success.

PS – CIO looking for insights on creating a culture of speed and agility will find the rest of the newsletter to be a great source of ideas.

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2 Responses to Google’s Recipe for Effective Meetings

  1. Rick Lent says:

    I believe it is helpful to see the similarities between Larry Page’s recommendations and those of other successful leaders. For example, see Leading Successful Meetings: What Do Good Leaders Share?

  2. The Higher Ed CIO says:

    Your link offers a great comparative set of principals. I suspect some of the differences can be accounted for by the culture’s of the organizations these people are accustomed to being in or simply by their own personality. The one odd bit that stands out is from Rumsfeld advocating being inclusive which just seems unlike his persona.

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