On Sunday morning I ran across this New Yorker article about banning computers in college classes and posted it with a note about how we don’t allow computers in meetings at Percolate. A few people replied and seemed interested, so I went ahead and posted our brand new (and beautifully designed) poster of the six rules of Percolate meetings that now hang in both of our conference rooms.

The Tweet, as you can see below, took off and I thought it might be worth turning into a bigger post.

In his blog post about our onboarding program, Jason mentioned one of the rules (“do you really need a meeting?”), but here are all six with their explanations (from our Day One @ Percolate onboarding document):

  1. Do you really need a meeting? If not, don’t schedule one and just go talk to the person. It’s generally easier, faster and more efficient.
  2. Meetings should be 15 minutes by default. If you need longer, take longer, but most meetings don’t need much longer than that. People will find ways to fill whatever amount of time the meeting was scheduled for, so don’t schedule more time than you need. If you get scheduled in a longer meeting, why don’t you ask why it needs to be so long?
  3. No spectators. If you don’t have any reason to be in the meeting, don’t go. We don’t need spectators at meetings. The corollary of this is that if there are spectators in your meeting, ask them why they’re there and to leave if they don’t have any reason to be there.
  4. Have a purpose, state it upfront. If your meeting doesn’t have a goal than you should probably revisit tip #1. You should have a goal (except for weekly check-in meetings) and everyone should understand that goal. If you are attending a meeting and you don’t know the goal, ask. If the person who set the meeting doesn’t have an answer, suggest the meeting be moved until there is one. This will help A LOT.
  5. Make tasks, assign them to people. Meetings start to suck when everyone walks away and it isn’t clear who is doing what. If you set a goal at the beginning there should be some tasks at the end. Make sure everyone knows who is assigned to those tasks (put them in Asana if applicable). A task isn’t a task if it doesn’t have a person assigned to it.
  6. Don’t bring computers or phones. This is important enough to mention again. If we want to have as few meetings as possible and make them as short as possible it’s important that everyone is focused on the task at hand. That means not doing other stuff during the meeting. If you catch someone doing something else (including James or Noah) call them out and ask them not to. If their computer is open and they’re not presenting or creating tasks/taking notes, ask them to close it. If they need to be checking mail or working on something else, they probably shouldn’t be at the meeting.

Some people on Twitter asked if the person who called the meeting is responsible for enforcing the rules and the answer is no. Obviously they’re responsible for stating the purpose of the meeting, but everyone is responsible for the others. If, for example, you’re leaving a meeting without clarity around who is responsible for next steps it should be called out regardless of whether it was your meeting or not.

In the end the goal of meetings is to accomplish something. As we all know in many companies they can take on a life of their own. Our goal is to mitigate that and ensure that meetings continue to be productive, even as we grow. Obviously we’re not the only ones thinking about this, though, and we’d love to hear how you’re thinking about keeping your meetings as productive as possible. Tweet at @Percolate with your meeting rules.

PS – For some more ideas, 99U has a post on the meeting practices of Marissa Mayer, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk.

PPS (6/10/14) – More detail and a fancy chart supporting Percolate meeting rule #6: No laptops or phones