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Prime time is sacrosanct

Internal meetings - team meetings, systems meetings, staff reviews, and so on - chew up value-development time and value-earning time.  I suggest you adopt a simple principle:
Prime time is customer time.
“Prime time” in any business is whenever most externally-focused activity takes place, whether development, selling or delivery. Any internally-focused activities should not intrude into prime time. In most day-time businesses, prime time is between 10am and 4pm. Apart from dedicated internal support people working on their actions (ie. not meetings), internally-focused activities should end by 10am or not start until after 4pm. Obviously externally-focused activity can occur outside prime time, but prime time is absolutely dedicated to it.

As business leaders, it’s important to set the standard for the rest of the team, and do your own internal stuff outside prime time as well. The mantra “Prime time is customer time” is an easy one to promulgate, and everyone quickly learns what it means. If someone tries to set up an internal meeting in prime time, leaders should set the example by telling the organiser where to go (in a nice way), and backing others who do so (especially against managers who haven’t got the message yet). It won’t take long for the behaviour to become part of “how we do things around here”. Your people will thank you for it, as will your customers and shareholders.

PS. “Prime time” may seem to be in conflict with creating family-supportive workplaces, but teams can usually figure out a solution that works for their situation. It’s about principles, not rules.

PPS. I vary the principle slightly for board meetings (bigger multi-subject agendas and out-of-town directors), but we spend the bulk of board time on how to make the future happen - planning, discussing, questioning, approving. Discussions on monthly reports and previous minutes happen last, not first.

First posted April 2nd, 2009