I caught sight of an article in the New York Times by my former boss, Dean Hachamovitch, on meeting culture and laptops. As some of you may know, Dean is the General Manager of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft. I worked with him on both IE and MSN Explorer before leaving Microsoft in May, 2006 for greener and more fulfilling pastures.
The article caused me to reflect on the difference in meeting culture at Mozilla and Microsoft. In both instances, pretty much everyone who has a laptop brings it to meetings. Of course, at Microsoft, there were a LOT more meetings than Mozilla forces anyone but key management to enjoy.
I recall a number of instances on the IE Team during the daily war meeting or the like in which people got so exasperated with the lack of attention caused by people focusing on their laptops that people really did try to close laptops on people or make everyone in the room close. Eventually, there was a (short lived) rule that unless you needed your laptop open to take the official notes or to look up data for something of yours in the meeting agenda, the laptops had to be closed.
In comparison, most Mozilla meetings have people lounging about with laptops wide open. People are often checking bugs, logged into IRC (where we live, really) or otherwise multitasking during meetings. It’s all very casual and no one seems to make a major issue out of it. Of course, that isn’t an excuse to just goof off or not pay attention but I think that people don’t really expect everyone to drop all other tasks to sit around a table for an hour, waiting for their turn to speak. We have a lot to do and software to ship!
The overall atmosphere is just a bit more relaxed around the laptop issue and, because people are neither rude in their use nor make a big deal about it, things manage to work out. Of course, this might not be the case if we spent hours and hours in meetings every day but, like I said, we have things to get done and software to ship. :-)
This is probably not the most insightful post in the world but the article did cause me to compare and contrast things. I certainly don’t miss the hundreds of my hours lost, never to return, every year to meetings either.