Humorist Dave Barry says the following about meetings: “If you had to identify in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, it’s full potential, that word would be meetings.”
My idea of hell is to be forced to spend eternity in a meeting. I’ll do anything to avoid meetings. In fact, I doubt there are too many of us who love meetings. A former client says I should have myself checked out for ADD/ADHD since my daughter struggles with that malady, and people who have ADD/ADHD have particular problems sitting in meetings. However, I think the greatest issue for me and a lot of fellow entrepreneurs is that we are hard driving, impatient, autonomous people.
Entrepreneurs are courageous. They are calculated risk-takers with the potential to have their heads handed to them every day. To even attempt the audacious act of entrepreneurship presupposes a strong will, a healthy ego, and the instincts of a jungle carnivore. These characteristics are, perhaps, not the ideal for mediating useful meetings.
I was reminded of this when I attended a seminar on Open Book Management (OBM) last year. OBM is a term invented by John Case in the early ’90s. But the concept’s chief evangelist is Jack Stack, who has written and spoken extensively on the concept. To oversimplify, OBM’s core assumption is that most firms perform best when employees see themselves as partners rather than hired hands. All company financials are shared by employees. Employers are challenged to improve profitability, and all ideally share in new company efficiency and prosperity. The assumptions are not very different from Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), except there remains a single boss and owner.
I am fascinated by the concept of Open Book Management in theory since I feel all companies should be run collegially–as a community of peers. (I have certainly always tried to never hire anyone who wasn’t better than me.) That said, OMB is a bridge too far for me for several compelling reasons. But the one that strikes utter terror into my small businessman’s soul is the potentially endless meetings educating and sharing and discussing management decisions and finances. This potentiality alone is enough to send me fleeing the seductions of Open Book Management.
As Eileen Shanahan acerbically states, “The length of a meeting rises with the square of the number of people present.” or to quote the late, great Thomas Sowell, “People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”
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