Richard Maun – Pizza Meetings

better business blog

Tips and stories to add value to you and your organisation


Pizza Meetings

18 March 2018

Many years ago, before the advent of the mobile phone (before they were even smart phones) there was a standard piece of office fun. It ran like this:

‘Bored? Lonely? Feeling left out? Then hold a meeting!’

Meetings were seen as a place where managers tended to hang out, instead of getting on with any real value adding work.

How times have changed! We now have standing up meetings (to keep them short), phone creches (to keep people focussed) and action sheets (to avoid tedious notes and ensure actual tasks are captured).

All good things you will agree.

Elon Musk, he of the car in space fame, was recently quoted as asking a silent meeting participant “why are you here?”

If his manner may be seen as a little abrupt by some, I do tend to agree with him. How does silence add value to the discussion? If people are there to collect notes then perhaps an email would be more time and cost efficient.

Remember we are talking about meetings here and not briefing sessions, which are entirely different things.

Jeff Bezos, for whom the word Amazon has been hugely successful, has a two-pizza rule for meetings.

What this means is that he won’t call a meeting, or attend a meeting, unless two pizzas can feed the whole group.

Sadly he isn’t on record saying if he actually turns up with pizzas, but his thoughtful approach does make the point that people in meetings are being paid. So then, why crowd the room with too many people? Why allow over attendance to bog down the discussion and waste time and resources?

Meetings are not meant to be a delightful break from work. They are meant to follow an agenda and have definable outputs. Otherwise, why bother?

Taking a Lean process improvement perspective, if we hold one meeting every week with 10 people in it and it lasts an hour, that’s 500 person-hours every year in time (assuming the good people are allowed two weeks holiday).

If the average cost to the organisation is £50 per person per hour then that’s an annual investment of £25,000 …and that’s just for one meeting.

If we added up the total bill for all meetings in a year then it’s likely we will scare ourselves and wonder if we are truly getting value for money.

Hence the two-pizza rule.

So, this week our challenge is to think of all meetings in terms of cost vs output. Are we really making the most of our resources, or just keeping them warm and happy in a cosy conference room?

We can all audit our meeting behaviours and can find ways to do more with less.

That way there’s more pizza for everyone!

Next week: The Humility Pivot


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