Is Your Calendar Hostage to Internal Meetings?

Jen van der MeerBusiness Model Practice


You know you want to reduce your risk, find the optimal path for your business, and validate that you’re on the right path. Are you going to let a few internal meetings get in your way?

I tend to speak to the converted – the innovation groups and startups that know they want to generate stronger business model options through direct customer discovery and lean experiments. But the biggest struggle and fight revolves around the calendar.

Here’s how the conversation typically goes:

Me: “So, you’re going to have to clear part of your calendar for the next few weeks – at least 10 direct customer meetings, plus travel time, as these are best done in person. For you, and for the leading members of your team”

Innovation Manager: “Um, that’s impossible, take a look at my calendar. I think we’re going to have to hire your team to do the research.”

But this never works out. You can’t build the capacities of a learning organization by outsourcing the very skill that enables your growth. And you know you can’t truly adopt a customer-centric mindset and have your day filled with internally-centric meetings.

I was reminded of the calendar priorities of the customer centric rereading The Profit Zone, by Adrian Slywotzky and David Morrison, a great strategy primer from 1997 that covers the basics of customer centricity.

The authors share the calendars of two different executives:

  Schedule A:   Schedule B
  9:00 Internal Meeting       

  10:00 Internal Meeting

  11:00 Internal Meeting

  12:00 Lunch

  2:00 Internal Meeting

  9:00 Customer Meeting

  10:00 Customer Meeting

  11:00 Customer Meeting  

  12:00 Lunch (with Customer)

  2:00 Customer Meeting

Schedule B: The calendar of Jack Welch, lionized former CEO of GE.

Schedule A: the senior executive of a competitor to GE.

Which company is surviving and thriving today and has fully embraced Lean Startup? (GE).

What does your calendar look like? Are you in an role driving innovation, but find yourself in mostly internal meetings? How are you organizing your time to find your customer’s shifting needs and priorities, to find new customers, and to generate new forms of value?


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