I recently met with a former colleague who has been leading marketing efforts for one of the top five US game companies for the last ten years, and she told me about one small thing they did that has had a tremendous impact on their success and culture. The company has gone from being a relatively small game developer with no external financing to a part of one of the largest, multi-billion companies in the video game industry. What is amazing that over the ten years, the company has not experienced any serious downturns or down-sizing, which in the game industry makes it the exception to the rule.
The secret to success
I was speaking with my colleague about what they do differently that leads to this success and she mentioned how at the beginning of every year they cancel all meetings. Then they start from scratch scheduling necessary meetings. There are multiple benefits to this tactic:
- Only essential meetings are scheduled. It forces everyone to look at each meeting and see if it is really needed. They then go ahead and schedule those that add real value.
- Only those who need to be there attend the meetings. Over time, meetings become bloated with attendees who do not add value. Sometimes people change roles and in their new role are no longer relevant but they still attend (while their replacement has now also been added to meeting). Other times people who are not needed are invited out of courtesy and attend out of courtesy but end up adding nothing to the meeting and learning nothing (usually focused on their tablet or phone). Scheduling from naught helps eliminate those people.
- Culture is focused on creating, not meeting. The strongest impact is more how it focuses the culture to building product and not to meeting. By forcing every meeting to have a positive value, meetings are weighed against other productive activities. This culture leads to high output.
- It creates cultural continuity. While the developer has grown and eventually was acquired, this strategy of cancelling meetings has helped maintain the culture through all the changes. It signaled both internally and to its acquirer that it is a builder, not a meeting, culture and the parent respected that quite successful culture.
While canceling all meetings once a year seems like a small tactic, it is actually a key component in the 10+ years of success in a very volatile industry. It’s also a tool that you can easily replicate.
- One very successful US game developer has, for many years, cancelled all meetings at the beginning of every year.
- This strategy helps eliminate outdated meetings, keep attendees to those who add value and focus culture on building value.
- This small move, canceling meetings annually, can help create a culture that can sustain as your company grows … even through an acquisition.