(This is a post featured from the founder’s blog.)
From 2011 to 2019, the engineering team at Stratasan (where I served as CTO) worked from home at most once a week. In March of 2020, that all changed and we went 100% distributed.
Like many small companies in the before-times, we worked out of an office with a small number of conference rooms. We used shared calendars to book the rooms. If a meeting went over time, participants had to wrap up and exit so the new meeting could get started.
This served as a forcing function in a few ways:
- The availability of meeting rooms put an artificial ceiling on the number of meetings we could have at any time.
- Meetings had to end on time so the room could be made available for the next group.
- Recurring meetings were trickier to set up because one needed to check for room availability.
- Meetings were also visible. You could see when folks were huddling (whether in a conference room or at a desk).
I’m neutral on whether the above is good or bad. But it did serve to make meetings more scarce, and scarcity increases value. If you have fewer meetings, it forces you to be more intentional with how the time is spent.
When we left the office, all of that disappeared.
- Meetings proliferated (anecdotally, but with some data to back it up). In particular, recurring meetings seemed to proliferate.
- Meetings went over time more frequently. “Does anyone here have a hard stop?” became a common question.
- Meetings seemed to carry a higher cognitive load on participants.1
We did a lot to try to mitigate some of what we were seeing. Several of us configured “speedy meetings”2. We performed periodic “recurring meeting resets” where we cleared recurring meetings and only set up the ones we thought were absolutely necessary. We encouraged detailed agendas. We set up a “one-pager” that detailed how we do meetings in order to try to make them more efficient.
I think some of this worked. But I can’t be sure, because the data either didn’t exist or was very tedious to gather. We could get some calendar statistics by doing spot checks. I could look at my calendar as well as some of my team members. There is some calendar analytics built into the Google Workspace dashboard, but it was too high level to really get any useful information from.
What I really wanted was a nice dashboard to monitor how we were doing. In particular, I wanted to trend it over time. I had many questions. Among them:
- Is our meeting burden (average per person) trending up or down?
- How high is too high?
- Break it down by recurring versus one-offs.
- How many meetings have an agenda? How many have a good agenda?
- Break down averages in a few ways:
- By department.
- By internal vs. external participants.
- Since “speedy meetings” are only configurable on the account level, who are the folks who are not taking advantage of that setting?
There are lots of other questions I want to answer, but these are the ones I started with.
There are lots of great calendar tools out there. But all of them, in my experience, are targeted at the individual user, not operators. I wanted a tool that would look at my Google Workspace domain and run the analytics on everyone in the company, not just me and/or my team.
Since I haven’t been able to find such a tool, I’m building it in Calendaristic.
I am looking for a handful of companies that can test this with me as it’s being
developed. If you’re interested, please head over to the sign up
if this doesn’t sound like a product you’d want, if you have thoughts about
meetings in general and want to chat, hit me up! My email is
brian at this domain.