“Time is money.” It’s an old adage, as trite as they come, but it seems to have found new life at Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce giant. With their recent drive to curtail the frequency and duration of meetings, the phrase takes on a sharper, more literal meaning.
Earlier this year, Shopify made a bold move: limit the time spent in meetings. They chopped off recurring appointments that involved more than two people and implemented a “No Meetings Wednesday” policy. If you thought that was revolutionary, their next move will make your head spin: a meeting cost calculator.
This ingenious internal tool uses compensation data, meeting length, and the number of attendees to calculate the cost of each meeting. Yes, they’re literally putting a price tag on talk time. Now, a 30-minute brainstorming session can cost anywhere between $700 and $1,600. And if you rope in an executive to the mix? You’re looking at a figure north of $2,000.
This might seem like an extreme move to curb the number of meetings, but Shopify’s COO Kaz Nejatian, the brain behind this operation, hopes to bring about a cultural shift — transitioning from an automatic “yes” to meetings to a more thoughtful “no.”
This has led to a considerable debate: Does the implementation of a meeting cost calculator stifle innovation by creating a psychological barrier to convene and collaborate? Or does it encourage it by freeing up time for deep work and critical thinking?
Critics argue that putting a price on meetings might dissuade junior or marginalized employees from raising important issues, believing the cost outweighs the benefit. On the flip side, the numbers tell a different story at Shopify. The average meeting time per employee has dropped 14% over the first five months of 2023 compared to last year. And it seems this change has borne fruit: an estimated 18% increase in project completions this year.
But let’s move beyond the numbers for a moment and consider the wider implications.
Meetings have long been a double-edged sword. They foster team connection and collaborative problem-solving on one hand, but on the other, they can turn into notorious time-suckers, often favoring the loudest voices in the room over the most insightful ones. Shopify’s move underscores the importance of creating a balance — of fostering a culture where dialogue is encouraged but not at the expense of productivity.
So, as startups and entrepreneurs, what can we learn from this calculated gamble by Shopify?
- Value Time: A renewed focus on how we spend our time can lead to productivity gains. Remember, each minute spent in an unproductive meeting is a minute lost from deep, impactful work.
- Promote Efficiency: Aim for concise, purposeful meetings. Do away with gatherings that are mere formalities.
- Foster Inclusivity: Ensure a balanced platform where every voice, especially those of junior or marginalized employees, is heard.
- Encourage Innovation: Free up time for deep work that allows for creativity and problem-solving.
While the jury is still out on whether Shopify’s meeting purge will lead to sustained productivity gains or unintended stifling of innovation, it’s undeniable that this bold move has reframed the debate on how we use our time at work.
So, the next time you find yourself scheduling a meeting, ask: “Is this the best use of everyone’s time?” Your answer might surprise you.
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