Interesting article.   I'm not sure I agree, however, as I have trouble getting people to get to the meeting ontime.  The article's suggestion that you should have 10 minutes of silent reading at the start of the meeting seems to be an invitation to have people show up 10 minutes late.

What do you think?


svibanez's picture

I've finally gotten people accustomed to starting meetings on time (when they're my meetings).  They also know that they should have already reviewed the material and prepared for the discussion.  As a result, most of them have also learned that my meetings tend to run much shorter than most others because (almost) everybody was ready.  As far as I'm concerned, they can fit their 10 minutes of silent reading time in anywhere they like - except in my meeting.


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kddonath's picture

Starting a meeting with 5-10 min of reading is crazy.  Like you said, it's an invite to have people come late.  People have a responsibility to come prepared.  I don't know about your company, but in mine there seems to be this mentality that meetings are blocks of time to figure out how to get 'my' stuff done, and giving people 5-10 minutes just seems to feed into that.

I took a queue from M&M and just started on time - just start talking.  All of my meetings are over the phone and the most meetings I attend start with, "let's wait for Jack to come" or "let's wait for the rest of the folks to join us."  Those meetings waste about 5-10 min.  For me that's just plain rude - what about the people that made the effort to show up on time?  So we're going to make them sit around??  No, I just start on time.  I've gotten a reputation for just starting and that's been getting folks there on time.  Those that constantly show up late get a reputation too - their late, they don't know what's going on, usually confused, etc.

Very interesting book: "Read this before our next meeting" (Amazon) - short, easy read.  Puts a lot of focus on meetings to close on decisions vs. working tasks.

GlennR's picture

.01 I agree that this would never work in my culture. However, it evidently works in the author's so it's less about being crazy and more about being out on the fringe. While it may work somewhere, it's probably not going to work in the majority of organizations.

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because of this quote by Jack Welch: “You can’t behave in a calm, rational manner; you’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe.”

.02 I totally agree with starting on time and I agree with the rationale.

Lagniappe: Whenever possible, I try to end "one-hour" conference calls and webinars at the :50 minute mark. That's great for relationship building especially when some of the attendees  or I have yet another meeting at the top of the hour. This gives them a break for whatever purpose. I make it clear to them that our goal is to finish at that mark and remind them of the saying, "Work expands to fit the time available." More often than not, we end within five minutes of my mark, still earlier than most.

kddonath's picture


I suspect starting and ending on time isn't hard for a D or C.  I and S on the other hand could be more difficult since the I thrives on discussion and the S won't want to offend anyone by cutting them off.  Like Mike says, "just say the words"!  We need to know our weaknesses in this situation.

@Glennr As to the "lunatic fringe", only if it's productive!


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dmb41carter36's picture

I like the Amazon theory of reading and writing briefs vs powerpoint. Not sure if I'd use it but it's interesting.

In reference to people coming late, I don't buy it. I don't sweat it anymore when people come in late. Most people know that my meetings start on time. Most people are reeled in by the third time (MT rule of 3) and it becomes a non-issue. The other thing that happens is that the same people are always late. To me, I chalk this up to the 10% I can't control especially if that person is senior to me.

For the most part, I put this into the boat of culture change. No stupid seminar, retreat, buzzword or goofy project code name is going to get me to have a great culture. Neither is one gimmicky stunt after another to get people to meetings on time. The way this really stops is the people like you and me who run effective meetings and give effective feedback rise to the top of the organization. We give feedback on meeting timeliness which curbs much of the attendance issues. In addtion, being a senior person and being on time sets the bar for others.

Lastly, where I am we are starting with baby steps. Most days, I'll be happy if the meetings I attend simply have an agenda :)


jrb3's picture
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Seems to me like very bad advice.  ("Galactically stupid" is the phrase du jour, right? :-)  It boils down to "let's start meetings late and pander to the unready".

Top performers see the standards decay and edge towards the exits -- first to get out where they can get stuff done for the organization, then to get out where they can get stuff done for another organization.


mattpalmer's picture

You see this in the article:

"This summary is usually the first thing to suffer if the meeting has run long and people start running off to their next scheduled event."

What is this about "if the meeting has run long"?  That, for me, was the death knell.  If you haven't worked out how to run a meeting to time (it doesn't even take an agenda, just say "sorry, time's up!") then you really don't have any standing to be providing any other whacky ideas.

Put ten minutes reading time on the agenda, and I'm turning up 10 minutes in.  If you give me ten minutes reading time and it *wasn't* on the agenda, I'm not going to get to minute two.  I've got better things to do than watch other people read.