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Quick meetings clear the decks, enhance sharing

On 10-10-10, Thanksgiving Sunday, I ran in the Chicago Marathon, and the experience caused me to reflect on some of the challenges we face at work. One thing that is clear is that when 40,000 people all go in one direction it is powerful. Even the date was well aligned!

The amazing thing is each person is simply putting one foot in front of the other, and despite the simplicity the impact is euphoric. Inside the dynamics are those who organize the event and those who are participating.

Each of the 40,000 or so participants arrives with a goal or a target. Each target is different, but everyone is aligned with no hidden agendas and everyone ends up going in the same direction toward their goal. Someone will win the race, others will simply finish, and many will simply be chasing their own personal targets.

Some say the sport is like a cult, and maybe they are right as everyone arrives from around the world with the same sense of purpose. The vibe is contagious.

Another amazing thing that happens when you have a clear goal, like running a marathon, is that people watching can easily find ways to help, even if it is simply to encourage you on.

As Nora Underwood reported earlier, we are working with a designer to help us to create our own contagious space. The look and feel is very important as it explains to any outsider who we are, where we’ve been and, most importantly, where we are going.

We’re aware that the space needs to be simple and in alignment with our culture so that everyone can easily identify with it. However, the task is not a simple one. It is hard to realize what elements are core to your culture, and we are actively working to define them.

Within the new design we are creating open meeting spaces so that it is more informal and comfortable for people to share insights and issues. We are moving copiers and other office equipment to common areas with a lounge/coffee-shop layout. With the addition of whiteboards and other elements, these spaces can become more functional and interactive.

We’ve also started a “daily huddle” for the senior team. It lasts 10 to 15 minutes and is held in front of our new metrics whiteboard, which details our daily numbers. Together we analyze the daily sales, any trends, and work through our operational statistics.

Then we have a few minutes to hit on any issues of the day. The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. so that each department has time to have their daily huddle and bring any issues forward to all departments by mid-morning. We are into our second week, and it has proven to be effective.

The huddles have also left more time in our weekly meetings to focus on our larger quarterly initiatives and not worry about the daily operational stats.

As for the stats, just like the marathon, we’ve learned to keep everything in perspective. On 10-10-10 it was hard to say that 5,500 people were faster then me, which seems like a lot, but with almost 2,000 not finishing and 32,000 people behind me it is all about the progress, and the recovery!