Meeting OKRs Made Easy
When I started developing Calendaristic, I thought I had my target market pinned down: leadership or middle managers in 30-50 person companies. That’s when I needed this tool most and couldn’t find it. Regardless, I knew I needed to talk to my customers to see how they were using Calendaristic. To quote directly from one of my favorite product leaders, Marty Cagan:
“I really don’t know how you can build products users will love without a deep understanding of those users, and you won’t get that without lots of direct communication, including face-to-face interactions.”
If I hadn’t been talking to customers, I would not have discovered a new niche for Calendaristic: Chiefs of Staff and executive assistants. These positions are often handed cross-departmental projects like “decrease meeting burden.”
As an example, I spoke with one executive assistant at a small company. Let’s call her Jane. Jane was originally hired to help the senior leadership team with one-off tasks like travel arrangements. After establishing rapport with the leadership team, Jane was tasked with additional responsibilities. She was assigned her own quarterly OKR — reducing overall meeting burden for the leadership team. They were all complaining about being overwhelmed with meetings. They had no time for strategic planning. In the parlance of business expert Gino Wickman: they spent all of their time working in the business and had no time to work on the business.
The EA’s process for doing this was very manual: logging into each leaders calendar, identifying and evaluating each individual meeting (especially those pernicious automatically recurring meetings), and working with the leader to determine if the meeting was still a good use of their time.
I had two questions:
- How do you know if you’ve accomplished the objective? (What are the key results?)
- How will you prevent meeting burden from slowly creeping back up and affecting morale?
I’m a data guy. I like specifics. I like measurability. I like leading indicators. Employee satisfaction and productivity are not leading indicators; rather, the total time spent in meetings is. When Jane was looking at these individual calendars, it was hard for her to see overall trends. She could only look at a month or a week at a time. But she couldn’t easily answer simple questions like, “Are we in more meetings than we were last quarter?”
In working with Jane, several critical questions emerged:"
- How do we define “too many meetings?”
- Is it really worse this quarter than it was last quarter?
- Is the meeting burden affecting job satisfaction for everyone in the company or just this team?
- Who on my team is affected by this the most (so Jane can concentrate her time on helping them)?
- If the team has too many meetings and we take steps to improve things, how do we intervene before it becomes a hit on employee happiness and productivity?
I’m happy to say that Calendaristic was a perfect fit for Jane. She was able to review the entire team’s meeting burden, trended over weeks, months, or quarters. She was able to set up monitoring to alert her when meeting burdens exceeded a predefined threshold for her leadership team. She was able to easily see which team members had the most meetings and focus on helping them.
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