Shopify's Meeting Diet
Shopify cancelled 76,500 hours of meetings. I think that's great.
Shopify is running a new-year calendar purge.
- Removing all recurring meetings with more than two people
- No meetings allowed on Wednesdays
- Any big meetings (50+ people) have to be held during a six-hour window on Thursdays
- Leadership cascade to encourage workers to decline other meetings, and leave large internal channels
The reactions on Hacker News have ranged from pretty negative about Shopify's leadership...
Former Shopify dev. For what it's worth, this isn't the first time they've purged all recurring group meetings. It happened several years ago as well. Surprised the article doesn't make mention of that; maybe their source hasn't been at the company long enough to know. ...it was annoying for me at the time because I had several recurring calls with external partners, which were all summarily axed. The bot didn't discriminate between meetings with 3+ Shopify employees, or 1 Shopify employee and 2+ external contacts. Hopefully they fixed that this time, because it was embarrassing having to explain to partners why all of our recurring meetings had gotten deleted.
To pretty deep debates about ways of working...
I'm one of those people who almost always wants to immediately get on a call to solve a problem rather than typing it out. I get that it's tiring being on calls all the time but it's also much more effective to have a call for most types of work conversations, even as a software dev.
Yikes. No. For one, calls don’t result in a searchable log. If I remember I talked to someone about Foo, I can search for that in my Slack history. If someone else asks me the same question about Foo, I can just send them a screenshot from our earlier conversation and we’re done. I can also talk to 4 different people about four different issues at the same time in chat, but I can only be in a single call at a time.
The executional details are super important: it's cool that they have a bot to do this kind of work, predictable that the bot maybe wasn't that accurate the first time they did this, and balancing nuance with diktat is always hard.
And I think AI is going to solve both sides of the ways of working debate above.
Elsewhere, I've read that this meeting purge amounts to 76,500 hours, across 10,000 meetings, which I assume is something like a biweekly total, assuming that they have more than 10,000 employees (according to the internet). That's a lot of hours spent meeting!
Aligning on objectives with other functional leads is important – without this, chaos can ensue. Cascading leadership directives from the top down is important – without this, clarity is lost. Reviewing progress with folks that can help accelerate or provide feedback is important – without this, standards can drop. The question is...are meetings the best way to achieve these objectives in a social, collective way?
I don't think so. Or at least, I think we have better options.
And then there's this quote from Tobi:
"The best thing founders can do is subtraction. It’s much easier to add things than to remove things. If you say yes to a thing, you actually say no to every other thing you could have done with that period of time. As people add things, the set of things that can be done becomes smaller. Then, you end up with more and more people just maintaining the status quo.”
I love this. I know this will get lumped into the whole "Well if Elon can run Twitter with a 90% smaller team, why can't we!?" idea, but there is a lot of good in telling an organization to simplify and speed up. Like a figure-skater pulling their arms in to go faster. (Not like that at all.)
Do less, but better. Do it with fewer distractions. Reduce WIP – and the meetings that go with it. Finish projects and move on.