Why Big Companies Should Run Their Meetings Like Startups


May 24, 2017     By Neya Abdi

“Do this like a startup, do that like a startup.”

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but fortunately today’s advice has nothing to do with hoodies, free snacks, or dog-friendly offices. Instead, this is about how you run your meetings, and how it may pay off to take a few notes from startups.

Apple’s Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) Method

Apple is no longer a startup, but that doesn’t mean companies can’t apply its methods from its startup days. One practice Steve Jobs made famous was the “Directly Responsible Individual” method.

The trouble is this. When there’s an issue, everyone agrees something needs to change yet at the end of the meeting everyone melts back into whatever they were working on before. They put specific actions items on the backburner since they’re busy.

Assigning a Directly Responsible Individual for each action item introduces accountability and a sense of urgency. Instead of a general call for ideas at the next meeting, all eyes will be on the DRI to see what progress they’ve made in the time since.

Assigning a DRI also keeps people engaged in the meeting. They know what information they should be looking out for, they’re motivated to ask the right questions, and they can request support, if needed.

This also relieves the burden on the rest of the team. Just because people don’t take responsibility for something without a DRI, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. Instead of everybody preparing half-hearted suggestions for the next meeting to avoid looking unhelpful, they can focus on their other work knowing that if needed, they’ll be assigned the title of DRI.

Introduce New Hires and Celebrate Victories

This is something startups do regularly, partly because their victories are often existential. Moreover, the intimacy of a startup makes one person’s victory everyone’s victory. A large company landing a new client is great, but it probably isn’t make or break. Still, that doesn’t mean larger companies shouldn’t celebrate accomplishments. Doing so inspires positivity and a sense of community within an organization, even a large one.

The same idea applies to introducing new employees. It happens naturally for startups. It would be extremely awkward to plop a new employee into such a tight-knit group without a formal introduction to the rest of the team. If you’re a large company, taking the time to do this at your departmental meeting fosters a welcoming environment.

Encourage Interdepartmental Interactions and Appreciation at Meetings

Sales needs Marketing. Research and Development needs Production. And everybody from every department desperately needs IT at some point.

At a startup, it’s obvious when one part of the company puts in extra work to help another. But the relationship between departments changes the larger a company gets. It becomes more transactional, so small requests that can easily be met get dragged out due to bureaucracy or a poor interdepartmental relationship. (Example: “Our team has a lot on its plate, so that’s not a priority.”)

It’s also important to include key stakeholders from different departments while making a decision. Your marketing team may have a great idea for a cool promotional feature. On top of that, it may be time sensitive. Perhaps it’s meant to come out in time for a holiday. Simply passing that along to their web developers with an imposed deadline doesn’t take into consideration their current projects and how much time they can dedicate to what essentially amounts to a favor for marketing.

Let’s take it one step further. Perhaps the web developers put in the extra time and get this feature ready right when marketing needs it. Marketing can take a moment from a meeting to find some way to acknowledge that effort, much like startups do when they celebrate employees that go above and beyond.

Yes, technically people are doing the jobs they’re paid to do, but recognizing when one team goes the extra mile promotes a sense of shared purpose.

Above All - Keep Them Short and To The Point

One thing startups have ditched is meetings for the sake of meetings. If your organization takes only one page from the startup meeting playbook, let it be the one that says to reduce them. Minimizing meetings will make those sessions more focused and to the point.

And above all, you’ll actually get stuff done.



Meetings / Notes