Host All-Hands Shows, Not Meetings

All-hands are shows meant to inspire, not meetings meant to inform.

Andy Grove in, his seminal work, High Output Management described meetings as “the medium for managerial work.” He devoted an entire chapter to the subject, outlining the difference between Process-Oriented Meetings and Mission-Oriented Meetings. “All-Hands”, the common term for a mandatory company-wide meeting, do not fall into either of these buckets. Instead of thinking of All-Hands as meetings designed to inform, companies should think of All-Hands as shows, designed to inspire.

Photo by Yvette de Wit

The first memorable All-Hands that I recall came when I was working as a engineer for “Purple Demon”, a pre-launch project name. The leadership team put on a show to unveil the company’s new name and its first logo, the company would be called Hotwire and this was our logo:

The original Hotwire.com logo

It was an inspiring moment, one that energized the team ahead of an exciting launch.

Unfortunately the majority of All-Hands that I’ve attended since have focused on internal news sharing rather than inspiring the staff. All too often expensive All-Hands’ time is consumed by leaders running through bullet point riddled slides. Instead of being inspired staff become bored and leave uninformed. As Jeff Bezos would say:

“It is fantastically easy to hide between bullet points. You are never forced to express your thoughts completely.” — Source

News is better shared in writing, when authors have enough space to collect their thoughts and to provide the necessary context to readers. Mark and I created RelayPad to give teams a consistent way to publish internal news. Establishing an environment where internal news is consistently, and transparently, reported frees leaders to inspire at All-Hands:

  • Sales leaders can share why customers are saying yes, rather than reviewing sales metrics.
  • Customer Support leaders can share inspiring customer stories, rather than average call wait time metrics.
  • Product leaders can clarify strategic reasoning rather than attempting to review every detail of an upcoming product change.
  • Engineering leaders can share the story behind innovative breakthroughs rather than a recap of what was included in the latest development sprint.

A CEO that I admire is Spencer Rascoff, a co-founder of Hotwire present at the aforementioned logo and name unveiling. He is now the CEO of ZillowGroup and if you’re looking for someone to emulate when hosting an All Hands, look no further. It’s safe to say that Zillow Group’s All-Hands inspire:

An All-Hands raison d’être is to inspire the team. If your company is relying on them for news reporting perhaps it’s time to write more. We hope RelayPad can help you publish internal news in a more consistent and transparent manner, leaving your All-Hands free for inspiration.