Why Meetings Cost More to ‘Makers’ than to ‘Managers’

Rarely does one get to read such insightful analysis

“There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one-hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.  When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.”

I urge everyone to go and read Paul Graham’s latest essay. It is simply a wonderful read outside a conference room 😉

A few principles I try to follow while calling meetings with “makers”  —

  • Is it a one-way communication – from myself or someone else? If yes, meetings are not needed.
  • Try not to invite more than 5-6 people for a 1 hr slot; 3-4 for a 30 min slot.
  • Send a stated “Objective” along with invitation to everyone. One invite I sent last week — “This meeting is to vet our proposal to remove Apache from our stack with our Security experts before going to IIT. If you cannot attend, please nominate someone who can be “A” for security.”
  • Meet your Captain *before* the flight takes off – Never schedule meeting with “makers” after 11AM. These meetings should be about planning, status tracking, gaining confidence on schedules etc. Please keep career, personal, motivational, benefits and sports out of these meetings.
  • You can “Thank” the Captain *after* the flight lands – These meetings can be after 4:30PM. The topics could be kitchen sink (other than regular tracking) — career, personal, motivational, benefits, constructive feedback etc
  • Never ever enter cockpit while in-flight – It has been shown that during creative work (programming; QA; bug solving; performance tuning; writing etc), even a single email “context switch” wastes about 30 minutes of productivity.
  • Pay close attention to the Captain during flight- None of these rules apply *if* a maker calls for meeting. Makers, as observed in the article, typically have a huge cost to meet. If they want to, there must be some serious reasons. Be there early!
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About Nilendu Misra
I love to learn, create and coach. Things that I do well are - Communicating ideas - verbally or through words and diagrams; Problem Solving - Logical or Abstract; Very Large Scale Systems; think about 'Frighteningly Simple' approach first. Things that I intend to do better are - Establishing Stringent Process; Exchanging Tough Feedback; Keeping up with my reading or To-Do list to be able to completely relax.

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