Go to...

Social constraints for your meetings

One rule that I have about meetings is it should start on time so it can end on time.  We all know that is easier said than done.  If you have a daily stand-up meeting, which is timeboxed at 5 to 15 minutes, you can not afford to have people showing up late.  They need to show up on time.

But what if there is that one person on the team who does show up late… every… meeting?  Do you punish him or her?  Let’s make them pay a dollar every time they are late.  Do you think that is a good idea or a bad idea?  Have you tried it?  I have.  It surprised me when it didn’t change that person’s behavior.  If anything, it just ensured they would be late.  Why?

By paying me the dollar, that person no longer felt obligated to arrive on time.  Everyone else, while still adhering to the culture of acceptable behavior, arrived on time.  Everyone else on the team, felt equally obligated to arrive on time because I was on time.  They felt that they owed it to me to be there on time.

So, how do you correct this negative behavior?  I like to zone in on something that makes the violator uncomfortable.  I’ve made them sing.  I’ve made them dance.  I’ve stopped the meeting when they’ve arrived late and then made them go from person to person on the team and say “I’m sorry for wasting your time”.  This may sound a little over-the-top but they slighted everyone on my team.  Everyone else was there on time; they should be as well.

I’m including a link to a TED video with Clay Shirky.  You don’t need to watch the whole thing.  What 4 minutes starting at 6 minutes 50 seconds.   He mentions the study A Fine Is A Price by Uri Gneezy and Alfredo Rstichini in 2000.  It is exactly what I’m talking about.  It defined the difference between social constraints versus contractual constraints.  Nothing like a research study to spice up the next meeting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu7ZpWecIS8#t=6m50s

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

15 Responses to “Social constraints for your meetings”

  1. June 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Hi, this was the culture at a former employer. One reason people were late was due to back to back meetings – no bio break time.

    What I did that had the most success is
    1 – start on time regardless
    2 – don’t stop and bring the late comer up to date until there’s a natural pause unless it’s critical
    3 – try to finish 5 min early to respect the fact that most of the attendees would have another meeting to get to.

  2. June 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Hi, this was the culture at a former employer. One reason people were late was due to back to back meetings – no bio break time.

    What I did that had the most success is
    1 – start on time regardless
    2 – don’t stop and bring the late comer up to date until there’s a natural pause unless it’s critical
    3 – try to finish 5 min early to respect the fact that most of the attendees would have another meeting to get to.

  3. July 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Is it really the role of the “leader” to make people feel bad?

    Follow Perry’s advice, stop being a “bad manager.”

    • Derek Huether
      July 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

      Glen, thanks for pointing out that I could have handled the situation just a little better. As you’ve pointed out on your blog, you and I come from very different backgrounds. You went to Officer Candidate School (OCS). When I was in the Marines, I went to Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School. Without going into more details of our military pasts, those unique paths clearly define us. If I ever had a problem with someone, subordinate or superior, we took off our chevrons and took it outside. Granted, this doesn’t translate to the corporate world very well. The enlisted Corps handles itself very differently than officers. It does sound like I’m a bit of a knuckle-dragger. I was trained and I trained other Marines to follow orders without question. Again, this doesn’t translate to the corporate world very well. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a complaint, until now.

  4. July 2, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Is it really the role of the “leader” to make people feel bad?

    Follow Perry’s advice, stop being a “bad manager.”

    • Derek Huether
      July 6, 2010 at 6:17 am

      Glen, thanks for pointing out that I could have handled the situation just a little better. As you’ve pointed out on your blog, you and I come from very different backgrounds. You went to Officer Candidate School (OCS). When I was in the Marines, I went to Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School. Without going into more details of our military pasts, those unique paths clearly define us. If I ever had a problem with someone, subordinate or superior, we took off our chevrons and took it outside. Granted, this doesn’t translate to the corporate world very well. The enlisted Corps handles itself very differently than officers. It does sound like I’m a bit of a knuckle-dragger. I was trained and I trained other Marines to follow orders without question. Again, this doesn’t translate to the corporate world very well. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a complaint, until now.

  5. July 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    After watching the Day Care Center video, any evidence you’re meeting attendees are any connection with the parents paying for day care?

    • Derek Huether
      July 6, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      Glen, sorry, I can’t say I understand where you’re coming from on that one.

  6. July 2, 2010 at 11:20 am

    After watching the Day Care Center video, any evidence you’re meeting attendees are any connection with the parents paying for day care?

    • Derek Huether
      July 6, 2010 at 6:18 am

      Glen, sorry, I can’t say I understand where you’re coming from on that one.

  7. July 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Also listen to Clay’s interview on Bob Edwards for an amazing insight into internet ideas. Thanks for the reminder to Clay.

  8. July 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Also listen to Clay’s interview on Bob Edwards for an amazing insight into internet ideas. Thanks for the reminder to Clay.

  9. July 12, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    HULK SMASH!

    People consistently showing up late to meetings makes me CRAZY (keyword: consistently). I’m talking Hulk-out, punch-a-puppy, break-stuff insane. It’s basic manners to be on time. Other people have commitments beyond the meeting itself and if the meeting has to start late, it either has to end late, or the planned work may not be accomplished. If the leader does nothing to discourage the behaviour, people will continue to view punctuality as optional.

    Here’s the thing: punctuality is about respect for other people. When people consistently show up late, they’re effectively saying, “what I had that made me late was more important than any time constraints any of you may have had”. The leader needs to deal with it or risk sending the message to everyone, “that behaviour is acceptable”.

    I usually let it go if it’s a one-off; but repeat offenders I take aside and ask for an explanation. There may be valid reasons that can be addressed. If they continue to offend, I’ll start getting angry.

    When groups of people are consistently bad I’ll wait until everyone’s seated, and go on a short tirade about punctuality (which further takes up time), explain the concept of manners and being on time, and the consequences to other people’s schedules. I don’t try to hide how I feel about it. I’ve ranted, I’ve raved, and made lots of noise.

    Usually it’s effective for a short while, but eventually folks need a reminder once again as their on-time behaviour starts slipping.

    Apologies to the commenters here, but I don’t find back-to-back meetings or day care acceptable reasons for people consistently being late to regular meetings. If they can’t make the schedule, they need to be professional, speak up and make other arrangements–otherwise they’re wasting people’s time.

  10. July 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

    HULK SMASH!

    People consistently showing up late to meetings makes me CRAZY (keyword: consistently). I’m talking Hulk-out, punch-a-puppy, break-stuff insane. It’s basic manners to be on time. Other people have commitments beyond the meeting itself and if the meeting has to start late, it either has to end late, or the planned work may not be accomplished. If the leader does nothing to discourage the behaviour, people will continue to view punctuality as optional.

    Here’s the thing: punctuality is about respect for other people. When people consistently show up late, they’re effectively saying, “what I had that made me late was more important than any time constraints any of you may have had”. The leader needs to deal with it or risk sending the message to everyone, “that behaviour is acceptable”.

    I usually let it go if it’s a one-off; but repeat offenders I take aside and ask for an explanation. There may be valid reasons that can be addressed. If they continue to offend, I’ll start getting angry.

    When groups of people are consistently bad I’ll wait until everyone’s seated, and go on a short tirade about punctuality (which further takes up time), explain the concept of manners and being on time, and the consequences to other people’s schedules. I don’t try to hide how I feel about it. I’ve ranted, I’ve raved, and made lots of noise.

    Usually it’s effective for a short while, but eventually folks need a reminder once again as their on-time behaviour starts slipping.

    Apologies to the commenters here, but I don’t find back-to-back meetings or day care acceptable reasons for people consistently being late to regular meetings. If they can’t make the schedule, they need to be professional, speak up and make other arrangements–otherwise they’re wasting people’s time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *