I discovered the concept of company-wide meetings in Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg’s insightful book How Google Works (read Valuable Ideas from Google for Growth and Innovation: Part 1 and Valuable Ideas from Google for Growth and Innovation: Part 2). According to the authors, the CEOs at Google held weekly Question and Answer sessions to discuss company policy and direction. The goal of the meetings was to also foster communication and transparency across the company. The idea sounded intriguing, and I decided to give it a try to see how the model could fit at our firm.
I was not 100% sure about how it would work for us, so I implemented a similar idea during our company’s holiday event. A representative of each of the core teams got up to speak about their greatest achievements during the year; as people shared their experiences with one another, I could see invisible communication barriers breaking down. It turned out to be much more powerful than I had originally imagined.
As a result, we started holding monthly company-wide meetings. Because we are much smaller than Google, we only needed to meet once a month. During these gatherings, different teams present major developments during the prior month and highlight where each is team is headed. As the CEO, I also provide a summary about the company’s current challenges and general direction.
They Bring Us Together
One of the benefits I have found is that the meetings physically bring us together, as we have two teams that are remote from one another. One is in our company headquarters, and the other is in the projects we are building. It is easy to lose track of the other team in the middle of our daily work.
With the meetings, however, a oneness has started to develop. Not only do we know we are part of the same company, but everyone is also starting to feel like a part of the same mission. Because we are including everyone as we face each challenge, it gives the entire team ownership of what we are all accomplishing; it provides everyone a sense of belonging and contribution.
We Innovate and Grow Together
Another advantage of these meetings is the cross-pollination of ideas. Because we don’t see each other daily, we can see the issues we are each facing from different perspectives.
In the last meeting, for instance, the properties leader was presenting our plan for a system to manage communication within each of our new buildings. One of the engineers in our projects department was concerned that not everybody is technologically savvy. He had some useful comments and ideas to make sure that people always have access to checking in with a person on the properties team.
The meetings also provide a deadline to ensure we stay on track with our projects. Because we are growing as a firm, we have many new initiatives that we are working on, such as new systems, upgrades to processes, and product redesigns. If we mentioned in the prior meeting that a project was going to be ready for the next meeting, there is a higher likelihood that the deadline will be met since we set the standard.
We Present Our Work
As each team presents, they develop more ownership over what they are doing. A person may have been working on a project for many months, hidden away behind a computer, so unveiling the final product and showing others the results can very rewarding. The person or team gets public acknowledgment and praise for their final product.
Furthermore, the meetings have become necessary because we are constantly upgrading our systems, operations, and products. Prior to developing these meetings, we did not have a vehicle for presenting and explaining these changes to the entire company. For example, we are currently revamping how we manage our processes at our company; during the next meeting, we will present the new framework, describe the actions everyone will have to take, and direct the team to general resources.
Presenting changes that impact everyone will help us smooth out rollouts. Not only will people know what to expect and when, but they can help address and solve problems ahead of time.
During the last meeting, the team learned why we do a soil survey and how to do it. A soil survey is necessary to determine what foundation a building needs in order to start construction. Unexpectedly, it was the presentation that people found the most impactful. Some of the people who work in operations had even come across the reports but did not understand what they meant or their importance to our work overall.
Some of our work requires specialized technical knowledge in construction. Given the success of our prior meeting, we will start to experiment with presenting a similar topic during each meeting that will help everybody understand these types of subjects.
The Future of Our Meetings
Our company-wide meetings are still a work in progress, but they are already proving successful. There is such a high demand for information that we already have the next meeting’s topics. These forums are proving to be a useful practice to promote growth and innovation, and more importantly, people have a new space to learn about and share everything that makes us who we are as a company.