Vad kan mötesappen Mobilimeet lära oss om möten?
Vi möter Joachim Lerulf, grundare till Mobilimeet. En app som vill revolutionera möten. Och när man tänker på det så är kanske just möten den ultimata hävstången för produktivitet i projekttunga organisationer. Joachim har många spännande siffror och lösningar på mötesproblemet.
Interviewer: Welcome to the Wenell Pod. Today’s subject is Meetings. It’s an often forgotten core process in companies, and we have some really interesting facts. With us we have the founder of Mobilimeet, a meeting app. You’re so very welcome, Joachim Lerulf.
Joachim Lerulf: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here!
Interviewer: So, what is a meeting?
Joachim: A meeting is a get together of at least two people, or more, where they’re supposed to meet to discuss something, and probably come to a conclusion of some sort and a decision of some sort, and most of the time it’s part of a bigger process, that you need to have that meeting in order to proceed with other stuff. That’s pretty much what a meeting is. But what I’ll tell you later on is that’s actually not the case. And most times, there is no clear decision, there is no way forward. So, there’s a lot of problems with meetings.
Interviewer: Yeah, I think many people will agree there are a lot of problems with meetings. There are lots of meetings. If you look at your Outlook or Gmail Calendar, what have you, it’s littered with meetings, but what actually happens with meetings, and if you just listen to your heart and your gut feeling about meetings people tend to not have that positive vibes about meetings.
Joachim: Right, as a matter of fact, we spend at least, on average, a third of our working week in meetings, and it’s everything from planning meetings, status meetings, management meetings, and so forth. Most people can’t stand the thought of having yet another meeting. A recent poll shows that close to half of them say they’d do just about anything but to sit through another meeting. Actually 1 out of 5 said they’d rather watch paint dry, and 1 out of 10 said they’d rather do a root canal. So that’s how bad it is. People can’t stand meetings, and for a good reason, as well. Most cases it’s perceived as a waste of time, where many times a person might not even know why he’s there, is he really supposed to be there? Why was he called to this meeting? And so forth. So, yes, definitely there are problems with meetings.
Interviewer: So, we need to meet, we gather people, yet people are totally negative, or at least many people were negative to meetings.
Joachim: Right, yeah. That’s a fact, for sure.
Interviewer: So why do meetings tend to be so unproductive? Because, I mean, the unproductive nature of meetings is often like, ”If I don’t know why I’m there, that’s unproductive. If we don’t arrive at some outcome, that’s unproductive.” So, why are meetings so unproductive?
Joachim: I think there are many reasons why meetings are unproductive. And actually, the foundation of having a good meeting is laid well in advance of the meeting. So if you are doing poor planning, then you will end up with a bad meeting. And that’s actually the case many times. People feel that they come to a meeting, they’re not prepared enough, they don’t know what they’re supposed to talk about, they don’t know what the purpose of the meeting is, what the objective is. Two out of three times there’s not an agenda. Again, running a meeting without an agenda is like running a car in the woods without a map, basically. That’s really a bad thing, to start off a meeting not having an agenda.
And also the fact that many times when people need to discuss something, they need to have talked about it before. They need to have had some type of pre-discussion, and many cases this type of pre-discussion takes place in an email in your inbox. And that’s also the way that most meetings start off, that you actually send out an invitation to the bunch of people that you want to meet with and then you start what feels like an endless email thread of a discussion, sort of pre-meeting discussion, and that’s where you actually go wrong, in my opinion, already there, because, email today is a problem for many people.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s a huge problem. I mean, there are few people on the planet who actually have an ordered email system. I’m not one of them for sure, so I welcome messengers for example. My inbox is kind of a content repository. It’s not an ordered process.
Joachim: Right, and the thing is, the average co-worker checks his or her email 36 times an hour. So if you take that and then just sort of look at the fact that you’re sending out meeting invitations via email, why would you want to add to that burden when you already have someone checking his or her email 36 times an hour? So email is actually part of the problem, because when you look at it the co-worker checks his or her email 36 times an hour, as it is today, so why would you want to add to that burden by actually sending out meeting invitations as well in email, and having pre-discussions in email? So, there are definitely better ways of doing that than the way that we do it in most cases today.
Interviewer: So actually you’re starting with the poor tool, and you’re actually adding to the stress load by pre-preparing within the inbox. Then people actually show up at the meeting, what happens then?
Joachim: When people show up to a meeting, many times…again, two out of three times there’s no agenda, so people are unprepared. There’s no clarity on exactly what type of decisions are to be made, how many decisions, or even, in some cases, the subject. So what happens is that we spend 25%…25% of the meetings that we have are actually spent in having irrelevant discussions. And we know also for a fact that…sort of some fun facts is that 9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings. That’s actually almost 40% of a minute that they dozed off during meeting. And another thing is also that more than 70% actually bring other work to a meeting. That tells you a lot about what’s going to happen at this meeting, probably nothing, and if you’re lucky, you might sort of come up with something.
I think also there is a problem with many times meetings aren’t perceived as actually work, because if you notice that some people say at the end of the meeting, ”Okay, let’s get back to work now.” Just saying that means that the meeting we’ve just had for an hour wasn’t actually work, it was something that we needed to do. It’s like a pain process that we need to go through. So I think it all boils down to planning, preparation, the way that we do and run successful meetings, as opposed…and also, our mindsets when it comes to meetings.
Interviewer: That’s so interesting. I recall another pod we had with Philip Runsten who is a researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics, and he’s researching in the field of the intelligence in teams, group intelligence, and collective intelligence. And one thing he mentioned during that pod was that, if you had to start meetings by asking people, ”Why are you here?” You’re often quite amazed by how different people perceive the purpose of the meeting and relate that to their agenda of being in the meeting. But it’s also a very important way to actually get people to be productive and see it as a collaborative work experience rather than, ”Okay, let’s go through some stuff and then leave for the real work,” as you say. So what can actually be done about this? I mean, I sense that you think, you are pointing ahead that we shouldn’t be in the inbox, for starters.
Joachim: Right, and say that’s…one of the things that we should start off with is actually accepting that it is a problem. And I think that if you talk to companies, we do that on a daily basis, that they all say that, ”Yeah, we have a problem with meetings. We know that they are not effective enough, and we know that we probably spend huge amounts of hours every month in effective meetings. The thing is we don’t exactly what to do, with it, or do about it actually.” So, if you look at it, if you’re a salesperson, you probably have some type of sales tool, a CRM tool of some sort, if you’re working with customer service, you probably have some type of customer service system that you buy or that you use. But what do you use to have better meetings? That’s the thing. And we all know that is a problem, that we need to fix it, but here’s the kicker, 75% of people haven’t had formal introduction or actually training in how to conduct a meeting. So how can we then expect that people can actually do or run effective meetings?
So I think there’s a tool missing, and the fact that we’re using too many tools today, as well. Again, we’re using email, we’re using calendars for invites, we’re using our old analog tools, a pen and paper, we’ve got files spread out on file servers everywhere. So it’s all a mishmash of different things which sort of, at the end, once we turn up to the meeting, we’re already confused, and then running the meeting and then having to follow up that meeting, again, we’re sort of lacking the proper tools.
So I’d say that we’re lacking tools, the proper tools to be more effective, and also, I think we need to change…honestly, meetings, they haven’t really changed in a long, long time. We’re still back in…we’re using the whiteboard as one of the most used tools in a meeting. Again, we’re using paper and pen, the notepad, but everywhere else we’ve gone digital. We’re using different types of tools that are digital, why aren’t we doing that in meetings? Why aren’t we accepting the fact that we’re mobile today, as well? The mobile workforce that we’re talking about, the people are…you could be in an airport in London, Heathrow, or in Chicago, we’re everywhere, and you still have meetings all over the place, and you need to be prepared, you need to be on top of things. That makes it pretty difficult if you have a paper and pen still, if you’re still going analog.
Interviewer: Interesting, lots of interesting stuff. I have been in the startup world, myself, for quite a long time, and we’re in different projects. So for me it’s an interesting thing to actually observe how uncoordinated we are in projects and within small teams, and that kind of stuff. And I always raised the question because you might have it as well, my background was in the army, it was calvary, and fast moving army personnel carriers, and people were sleep-deprived. And yet they knew what everybody else was doing, they knew what their team was doing. We had really short breaks and they were really focused. How can that be that if you are in the same place, you go there, you’re not sleep-deprived, or some times you are, but in most cases, you’re not, you have fixed whiteboards often, but how come you cannot have a productive meeting? How come you cannot brief the team? How come everybody doesn’t know what’s going on? Probably it is because we haven’t learned it, as you are saying, and we haven’t actually learned the process, and we aren’t using the same cohesive tools.
Joachim: Right, yeah. I think that’s a really good point. And also, adding to that, is that, coming back again to communication and the fact that there are happening a lot of things within other areas of the company. We’ve seen lately some really successful companies handling internal communication such as Slack, and there are a bunch of them. So the way that the worker of today works and also expects to be able to work is to be mobile and to be digital, and I think we are expecting that in meetings, as well, but we’re still sort of lagging behind in the way that we run meetings, and the way that…the sort of the tools that we’re using.
And I think that’s what we are trying to do at Mobilimeet is sort of add one dimension to this where we say that we know that you’re mobile, we know that you need to bring everything with you all the time, we know you need to be prepared, and we know that you’re probably facing a situation where you’ve got everything spread out, because that’s the way it is. You’ve got documents all over the place, you’ve got contacts, you’ve got people to meet, and you’re handling most of your communication, external communication, anyway, with email. But increasingly so, internally you’re using some type of Slack, or whatever. And we’re trying to add a dimension where we’re saying we can actually bring all this together for you, to make sure that you have everything in one place, all your needs in one place, you’ll always be up-to-date with whatever happens in a meeting, pre-meeting or post-meeting, and trying to be, sort of, our ambition is to be your personal meeting assistant in your pocket, basically.
And if we could just…given the fact that we’ve talked about, there are actually two sides to meetings, two bad sides to meetings. One is the one that we talked about where people get frustrated because it’s a bad experience. The other one is it’s costing huge amount of money. And again, companies know that meetings are a problem, but you don’t really see the cost there because it’s a hidden cost. You can’t see it in the P&L anywhere. You just know that this guy over here is sitting in around 20 meetings a week, or 20 meetings a month, whatever it is, and 50% of all meetings that we have are wasteful meetings. So 50% of the time this guy spends in a meeting is actually just a cost for the company. And if we’re talking smaller markets like Sweden, we’re talking $20 billion a year it’s costing the Swedish companies, and that’s just little Sweden. If we’re looking at U.S., the cost is so much more. U.K., and we’re still just talking about a few companies.
So there’s a big, big cost involved in having co-workers sit in effective meetings and the fact that we’re not doing more to actually fix this, is something that actually, at the end of the day, is actually affecting the bottom line in the company as well, because you’ve got huge amount of hours that are unproductive, that you’re not actually…you can do other stuff to be more productive as opposed to sit in these meetings.
So we could end up with having…we should end up having more effective meetings, but we might also end up having less, fewer meetings, actually.
Interviewer: That would be nice.
Joachim: I think most people…
Interviewer: I think it’s totally…if you look at it that way, as you’re describing it, it’s insane. I mean, if you look at a machine, for example, if a company has a machine that is on standstill, that doesn’t work, you could definitely say, ”Okay, there is a cost here,” or if you have a production line where a machine should corporate with next machine or next robot, if that would break down, you would fix it immediately. But in this case, because it’s invisible, because it’s people, we don’t fix it.
Interviewer: So how does that…what process do I get if I use your tool? I mean, obviously there are different approaches, but you have obviously thought a lot about this. So what does the meeting process look like with Mobilimeet?
Joachim: What we’re doing instead is that we’re saying, ”First off, let’s keep you out of your inbox, because that will give you problems from the get-go.” So we’re giving you a tool, you can set up all your meetings with Mobilimeet, so you send out invitations from Mobilimeet, you handle all your contacts there, as well, you can check who’s coming, who’s attending, and who’s not attending. You can have your pre-discussions in a chat within Mobilimeet. You can share all of the support materials, so the documents. And one of the things that is also a good thing with doing that is that, the normal way that we do today is that, let’s say that you and I are going to have a budget meeting, or planning meeting of some sort, so I’ll send you an email with an attachment. We are having that meeting in four days. Most likely, that attachment will be revised two or three times before we actually sit down and meet because things happen, I need to change something or whatever. So I keep sending emails, I keep updating attachments, and you’re sort of frantically going through your inbox to find the latest version before we meet.
And Mobilimeet, what we do is that every document you share can be updated at any time and from anywhere. And if it gets updated you’ll get a notification. So as soon as something happens in a meeting, pre-meeting, during meeting, or after meeting, you will get notified by Mobilimeet. So you’ll always be sort of on top of things, you’ll always have the latest facts at hand. And then also, just having the possibility to collect all your meetings in one place, because your calendar…people tend to love their calendar, we live with our calendar, but one of the things with our calendar, as well, is that we have so many things in a calendar. We have everything from the meeting with my boss or my colleagues, to that dentist appointment or, walking the dog, or picking up the dry cleaning, whatever it might be.
So we’re saying that these are all important things for you, but when it comes to meetings you sort of keep that separate, have them in a container, all in one place, and easily accessible, easy for you to update. And we’re trying to do that, right now we have the Beta out there. We’re launching a new version soon. And also it will be available on laptop, desktop, too. So we’ve had users say that they really want to use a bigger screen and a bigger keyboard, which makes sense.
Interviewer: So you went mobile first then you complemented with laptop, desktop?
Joachim: Right, exactly.
Interviewer: Okay. What has been the experience of your users when they start to work like that?
Joachim: First of all, it’s a new way of working. It’s…we were expecting people to be hesitant to start with, but we’ve had some fantastic feedback. We have users that have come back to us and said, ”Wow! This is great. Why aren’t we using this…Why haven’t we used this before? We use this in every meeting.” And that’s the idea as well, whether it’s a planning, or a management meeting, or whatever type of meeting it is, you should be able to handle it with Mobilimeet. So, the responses are…if you look at two, one thing is, if you’re looking at the response from our customers, the ones who are actually going to buy this thing and sort of implement it within a company, they like it because it’s an efficiency tool, it increases productivity. But I think equally important, perhaps even more important, in some cases, is the actual co-worker actually using the system, because if he or she doesn’t like it, it’s not going to fly anyway. And luckily, the response that we’ve gotten so far is that people do really love it, and they feel it sort of makes their days so much easier.
And obviously we’ve got tons of stuff still that we want to do and there is a roadmap that’s sort of longer than this table, but we need to start somewhere. So we just felt that we need to get that Beta out as soon as possible and get some user feedback and listen to what they’re saying. And it’s been a really good experience for us.
Interviewer: That’s really amazing. When you get that kind of user feedback, it’s so amazing. We are into…the Wenell Pod is very much about leadership and product management, if I have some template from…if I have a method or something, how easy it is for me to implement that into the system?
Joachim: How do you mean a template? Could you elaborate?
Interviewer: If I have, for example, this is the way we run meetings, these are the action items, this is how it is, this is the sequence in which stuff is happening, how could I implement it? Is it easy? Is the platform open for me to get that kind of stuff in?
Joachim: Yeah, okay. I see what you mean. Well, right now, we still have a few features that are in the roadmap and they are coming in upcoming releases, and some of them actually involves the stuff that you’ve talked about right now, actions, and notes, and having templates, and actually being able for you to sort of, in a way, customize your meetings, because you run meetings the way that you do and you use your templates and your processes, so you should be able to use that in Mobilimeet as well. It should be that flexible. Right now we’ve kept it fairly open, so you can add any support materials that you want whether it’s your own templates, or documents from before, or notes, whatever, but we want to come up with actually tools within the tool, if you like, to handle that more smoothly for you.
And also I think that the ambition is to not really come up with an administrative tool, because yeah, that’s a good thing, you need to have something that sort of administers the meeting, but at the end of the day I think you want something that actually proactively helps you to become a kickass meeting organizer. So the ambition with the service is that it should actually proactively help you to become better at meetings. And we’ve got some stuff in there in the roadmap that we can’t wait to get ready and release, so I’d be happy to tell you more about that at a later stage.
Interviewer: Cool. Looking forward to that. Thank you, Joachim, so much for visiting the Wenell Pod, and…
Joachim: Thank you.
Interviewer: …it’s Mobilimeet.com where we…
Joachim: Yes, exactly.
Interviewer: …you want to run a trial or just test out the solution. Thank you so much.
Joachim: Thank you. It’s been great meeting you, and it’s been great talking to you.
Interviewer: Thank you.