I was on a zoom meeting recently and the meeting leader gave a 15-minute Soliloquy on friction points, aww the irony of creating friction points talking about how to avoid friction points. 

After spending nearly two years enduring endless video meetings as we discussed medical device packaging with attendees asking the “when can we have a follow-up meeting?” question, I have been forced to create a sort of rules of engagement policy for meetings. I will only hold or attend a meeting if it will likely create an action that will happen directly after I push the End Meeting button. Some days I can almost feel myself shouting at everyone’s little video square on my screen, please no more follow-up meetings! Really the better question we should be asking is when can we stop resisting the anesthesia of the delay? We all have our favorite quote and a clear winner for me is “action is the antidote to despair” I think I shall update this quote to suit me better however to read “action is the antidote to delay.

It’s easy to fall into the trap that prudence is found in dense analytics and long timetables. Tom Peters always speaks on his “Bias for Action” I too have this bias. Delay is nearly always about fear or the belief that we do not have all we need to move forward to the action step. Herb Kelleher said, “We have a ‘strategic plan.’ It’s called doing things.” Next step planning is fun, it is corporate foreplay, it is the euphoria of imagining what is to come and it is void of all the sharp pointy bits and pieces of the actionable real world of the next step. Progress, however, is found when boots touch Terra Firma, after all, lions are not rewarded by creating third-quarter projections and Gantt charts, they only eat when they act. We can only help our medical device manufacturing customers package their medical devices when we sell them a medical pouch sealing system. Just like medical device packaging validation, it’s an important process that requires multiple steps but at one point you need to be done to deliver your medical device to patients in need.

An old friend of mine once told me that I am the kind of person that would read a how to fly manual as I’m taxiing down the runway, I took this as a compliment, however that was surely not his intent.  My Bias for Action has served me well over the years, it is a cornerstone of how I lead my company. I avoid the paralysis of analysis by scheduling meetings on a value to process model and never use cadence scheduling as a cause for holding a meeting. I build a development architecture with third-party vendors so they can manage their own personnel and deliver the product or service to me on an agreed time parameters. Wait, I’m making this blog too long and you have things to do and so do I so let me leave you with these three ideas to get to the action step faster.

  1. When scheduling meetings do not send everyone a survey to find the best time for a follow-up meeting. For everyone’s schedule to align you’ll be pushing the meetings out by a month’s time, simply set a date, if it is valuable to any member of the group, they will be there.
  2. Practice “Compaction” this waste reduction process has tremendous value in time management as it does in industrial waste management and ultimately sustainability. When we remove the dead air between activities i.e., meetings, market analytics, surveys, and all the other head-scratching nonessential BS we find progress. Here is a fun fact on trash: A dumpster holds about 32 completely full big black garbage bags. By compacting that trash, the volume is reduced enough to be emptied around 4 times less often. So, this means about ¾ of the dumpster waste could be compacted into a single black garbage bag, this is the power of compaction.
  3. Incentivize time savings as you would for any other valuable metrics such as business growth and cost savings. Road construction contractors are awarded monetary bonuses for completing their work on or before a completion date. Managing a project under this system municipalities, contractors and motorists all win. Consider appointing staff member as a Time management auditor or advisor that would be tasked with removing the time waste gremlins that are embedded in all our organizations.

So, meet if you must but be vigilant about Time Pirates that steal you away from the valuable activities that develop progress. This year my plan is to be graciously less available to activities that do not support lean time structure. I will leave you with these two quotes:

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back” – Harvey Mackay

“Most time is wasted, not in hours, but in minutes. A bucket with a small hole in the bottom gets just as empty as a bucket that is deliberately emptied” – Paul J. Meyer