Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Evolution of T.I.M.E. - Part 3

With the intent of rolling this out at the beginning of 2009, the committee put together what we called the "T.I.M.E. Declaration," which consisted of ten bullet points outlining the underlying mindset of T.I.M.E. It was hoped that this would help others better grasp, and eventually embrace, this new workstyle. We started with ROWE’s 13 Guideposts and adapted them to fit our unique culture.

1. Work isn’t a place you go – it’s something you do. Nobody should feel guilty, overworked, orstressed-out as a result of their job.

2. Associates can work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done and both internal and external customers are always taken care of.

3. Associates have the freedom to work in the style that works best for them as long as they meet the objectives and performance criteria of their job and have no negative impact on other Associate’s productivity.

4. Associates make themselves available on a consistent basis to other Associates via their choice of Instant Message, Telephone or E-Mail and manage expectations and their availability appropriately, realizing that there may be periods of time when the Associate is just not available.

5. People have an unlimited amount of "paid time off" as long as the work gets done. There is no concept of vacation or personal time. However, any hourly Associate is paid the vacation and personal time as defined by the company.

6. The company will not incur any additional expense or un-reasonable IT requests to facilitate associates working outside the office. It is up to the Associate to make T.I.M.E. work for them not look to the company to provide the solution.

7. All meetings with the exception of mandatory and staff meetings are optional as long as the Associate contributes in advance if their input is needed, reviews the notes from the meeting and is responsible for any action items that apply to them.

8. All internal meetings are open and anyone can attend any meeting including requesting a forum at the Team Leader Meeting. You must announce yourself or be logged into the Live Meeting to attend. It is up to the meeting facilitator to manage the flow and content of the meeting.

9. It is the expectation that all Associates including Team Leaders think through their goals and objectives and plan ahead to avoid last minute scrambles taking into account that external customer expectations may be different than ours.

10. No one is measured on how many hours they work or how they spend their time, just the results that they produce. There are no defined work schedules, only schedules defined to meet the needs of our internal and external customers.

The Declaration was sent to the entire staff on Dec. 22, 2008 by Jmîchaeĺe, with a note saying to review and discuss with your Team Leader any additional concerns or questions, as it was to be approved in the next Team Leader meeting. On January 7, 2009, the finalized T.I.M.E. Declaration was delivered to all associates and we were off and running!

Snow storms? Bring ‘em on! School vacations? Sweet, the kids need a break now and then. Got tickets for opening day at Fenway? Lucky dog, see ya!

The shift to the new workstyle impacted different people in different ways, as one would expect. For some, it was hard to fathom that they could just stop working and leave if they wanted to. You were no longer required to go into the office, and sit at your desk for a set number of hours. Instead, you were able to manage your work on your own . . . as long as it got done. I likened this to transitioning from high school to college. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but when I went to college, they didn’t necessarily take attendance in each class. Instead, if you missed class, you were responsible for the content and any work that was assigned. Get your work done in an acceptable manner, and you were pretty much good to go.

We were being treated like grownups. How cool is that?

Until the next installment,

Karen Mathews
Product Manager

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Evolution of T.I.M.E. - Part 2

The time for the meeting to discuss this otherworldly workplace notion finally arrived. As you can imagine, everyone was quite punctual to this one. Jmîchaeĺe gave a quick overview of something he’d been reading. He was very happy with his lifestyle and the freedom he felt and wanted to pass this along to all the associates in his company.

He cited a book called Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, the developers of a management strategy called R.O.W.E. – Results Only Work Environment. He encouraged us to actually not read the book (yes, I cheated and went out and bought the damn thing on my way home that night), but instead consider their statement that “work isn’t a place you go, it’s a thing you do.” Also, imagine a work environment with no more vacation days, no more personal days. If you need to take time off, do it. It won’t be tracked anymore.

Whoa. I suddenly felt as if I were about 16 and my parents asked me to consider if a new Ferrari would work as my first car. There was a time of rather stunned silence, but then questions started pouring out. So anyone can work from wherever they want, whenever they want? Yes, as long as the job gets done. What if someone only works a couple hours a week? If they’re getting their tasks done, then fine. But we’d also have to consider if they have enough to do. So, someone could join a conference call while at the beach? Yup. What if you needed to contact someone who’s not showing online in our company IM system? Try calling them. If I want to take tomorrow off, I don’t need to submit anything or get approval? Nope, just post it on your calendar. And perhaps alert others who work with you, as a courtesy.

Good gravy! Could this be for real? It felt so liberating, yet unreal. How could someone possibly say no to this? There was initial excitement, but as the meeting progressed, folks starting airing some concerns. What about those who slack off? We still work with clients who have a traditional “workstyle,” so how to deal with that? What if you simply cannot reach a person who’s crucial to what you’re trying to accomplish? Do I have the self-discipline to make this happen? Will I be getting phone calls at 10 PM from someone who prefers to work late at night? Does this mean I’m “available” 24 hours a day?

It was a lot to consider. We started meeting in the late summer, with the idea of hashing everything out and launching this new workstyle at the beginning of the new year. One thing was crystal clear from the get-go, though. If you wanted to take advantage of this, you had to make it work. Don’t look to the company to provide all associates with laptops and T1 lines to their homes. There was immediately one hard, fast rule: MeetingMatrix was not to incur additional expenses because of this new undertaking.

We established certain questions we all needed to ask of ourselves and our departmental teams. We agreed to have regular meetings to consider next steps, and to get buy-in on all aspects of this endeavor which would show themselves over time.

First on the agenda, though, was to come up with our own name. There was a brainstorming session and we eventually agreed to go with T.I.M.E.,which stands for Task Inspired Management Environment. We absolutely loved the irony of that name, because one “mandate” is that no one is measured by how much time they put into the job, but rather the results they produce.

As word spread about what we were doing, the resistance we encountered was quite surprising. Initially, it was hard for other associates to look past the fact that there were no longer any vacation or personal days. It took a good deal of coaxing to get them to understand that it didn’t matter. Later, it appeared that despite completely eradicating all past “rules” of work, people needed guidelines to help them travel this new path. So, our committee had each person talk directly to their department to uncover and document concerns and questions, and bring them back so we could address them collectively.

To be continued (again)...

Karen Mathews
Product Manager

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Evolution of T.I.M.E.

I’m sure everyone’s all too familiar with this scene: You drag yourself out of bed in the morning after hitting the snooze on your alarm far too many times. Your brain informs you that it’s only Tuesday. You have your morning cup of whatever to help you wake up, take a shower, get dressed, get in the car, and begin the daily commute to work. Of course, if you have kids and / or critters in the picture, this routine is compounded eight-fold.

Now, let’s say it’s summer time, the season of roadwork and construction. Yes, you know Route 16 is being completely rerouted, and you left a little earlier than usual to make sure you get to work on time. But, today, it appears they’re blasting, and the sign says to expect significant delays. You slow to a crawl, with your mind subconsciously ticking off the minutes you’re losing in the battle against time. Cell reception is awful in this spot, so letting someone know you’ll be late to work isn’t an option.

While slowly advancing, you can’t help but look at the clock. It’s already 7:50. Can you make it to work from here in 10 minutes? Nope, there’s another 25 miles to go, and you haven’t exceeded 15 MPH for the past 25 minutes.

Great. Just great. Now you’re going to have to stay a little later to make up for this. Or maybe you’ll just work through lunch. On secondhand, maybe not, since you didn’t bring anything with you.

Finally, you get to work, park the car, gather up your stuff, and head in to the office. Your company has a security system in place, so you need to “orb” in. You know there are records citing when you orb in and out, so it will be quite clear to anyone who accesses that data that you were 20 minutes late to work . . . again. With this in mind, as you make your way to your desk, you casually gripe about how bad traffic was today.

So here you are. You’ve been awake for an hour and a half and you’re only just now “starting” your day. You grumble that with prepping, driving, etc. you devote nearly two and a half hours a day getting to and from your job. But it doesn’t count for anything. All the “orb report” shows is you weren’t at your workstation banging away at whatever you do by 8:00 AM sharp.

Paul in Engineering was cool enough to create an applet (Associate Time Management, or ATM) so associates can track their time in the office. You check yours and you’re already 25 minutes in the hole. And you realize again, it’s only Tuesday.

The rest of the week progresses along much the same lines. You orb in and out every time you go in and out the office door, whether it’s for lunch, to go check the mail, grab something you forgot in your car, or even to use the bathroom. All those precious minutes are being tracked in the system. Come Friday, around 2:00, you check ATM and see that now you’re 45 minutes behind on your time. Grooooooooan. According to the official company mandate, all salaried employees are expected to put in 40 hours each week, regardless of your work load at the time. So, you’ll be hanging around till close to 6:00 tonight, refreshing that damn applet every few minutes.

Winter rolls around and, after a particularly nasty storm during the night, you poke your head out the door to see nine inches of snow covered by four inches of ice on your driveway. And it’s still coming down at a good clip. Nope, not gonna take the chance driving in this stuff, especially since it’s forecasted to keep going through the late afternoon. Just not worth it. But you only have one more personal day left. Do you use it now, or save it for when the flu starts making its rounds? But then again, you’ve got a helluva lot of work to do, and can’t afford to lose ground there. You can’t stay home and not take a personal day, but you could really use the quiet time to finally finish up that project you’ve been working on. You decide to take the personal day, but you tell yourself you’ll be damned if you’re going to do any work while using that last precious personal day, all while in the back of your mind you’re thinking you’re just going to be that much farther behind on your project.

Yup, that’s how life used to be like at MeetingMatrix. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m trying to paint it a little darker than it really was. I truly enjoyed working at MeetingMatrix in those days, mostly because the people are great. But the daily drudgery is kind of along the right lines. I used to say that “work really gets in the way of your life,” and to a certain degree it does. But, of course, you can’t survive without a job, so what to do?

Let me take a moment now to introduce our CEO and president, Jmîchaeĺe Keller. He’s also the owner of the company, so he can pretty much do what he wants. He had a lifestyle where he sold his home, bought a luxury motor coach, fully equipped with all the latest technology, and tooled around the country, conducting business from wherever – and whenever – suited him.

He long supported the routine described above. Keep in mind that MMI is a company wherein the majority of associates work remotely, away from the Portsmouth, New Hampshire office. But, if you lived in close proximity to the NH office, you were expected to go to the office on a daily basis.

Then one day, I get an email in my Inbox. The subject of it alluded to something pretty damn interesting, some sort of radical new concept for the workplace. Of course, I drop everything and read it. It was from Jmîchaeĺe and sent to one member of each department in the company. Within the body, there was the opening line of “What if you could work wherever and whenever you wanted, as long as the work gets done?” He then asked each of us to ponder this idea in preparation for a meeting to be scheduled at a later date.

Huh?!?!? What the hell was this? Is this some kind of bad joke? What’s he up to? I quickly look at the other names in the To: field and realize most of them don’t have the opportunity to work from home. Of course, I begin to ponder this pretty hard, with visions of me kicking back on the deck plugging away at my laptop on warm, dry days. Oh boy, this could be very interesting.

To be continued...

Karen Mathews

Product Manager

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Work Culture


Across the world there are almost 200 countries, each one of these has its own individual features, characteristics, rituals, and traditions. These form the culture(s) of a country. The culture of a society affects everything from how people eat, work, play, and how they interact with each other and newcomers.

As a newcomer to countries, I find it fascinating to see how different cultures accept and welcome visitors. In Malawi, when you are greeted, you shake both hands with your right hand, and with your left you hold your right wrist to show respect. In Uganda, people will stop what they are doing as soon as you arrive and come see you. When you are offered something (i.e. a drink) it can be deeply insulting to say no. In France, a warm welcome would be to receive a bisou or bisous (kisses).

There are rules around these greetings and traditions that can be difficult to understand and follow for someone who is not accustomed to them. There are many similarities between cultures. Many dictate that each guest be treated with the up most respect and generosity and that their needs be met no matter what the cost. In Kenya, if a visitor were to come one evening asking for somewhere to stay, a member of the household would give up their bed and their meal for the guest.

When we move to a new and foreign place, we become aliens. The definition of which is 'a resident born in or belonging to another country'. As an 'alien' in a foreign country, that is the last thing many of us want to be. As humans, we like to fit in and be accepted, therefore it is up to the country we are visiting to welcome us into their culture and to be hospitable. As one of three interns at MeetingMatrix this summer, I have experienced some of the American culture including the American way of greeting and welcoming newcomers; and so far it has been fantastic.

MeetingMatrix has done everything for us; the only thing we had to do ourselves was step onto the plane! From the moment we were on the plane, everything was organised (transport, accommodation, meals...). For some of you reading this, you may be thinking, 'well, that's just standard, that's what I would expect of them.' If that's the case, then MeetingMatrix is the company for you because they didn't just stop there. Since our arrival, we have been sailing, gone out for dinner with the staff, given company jackets, and allowed to use the company car for a road trip. All of that was done in just over a week. Week two, here we come!

As a company, MeetingMatrix promotes a very relaxed work ethic. Staff are free to come and go as they like. They choose to work at home or at the office. As we sit and work in our 'office' which we've taken over for the next few weeks, we often have associates coming in for a chat, to introduce themselves, to see how we're finding things, or what we got up to the previous evening.

This atmosphere that is created in the company is incredible. Its one where people are motivated to work by being somewhere they want to be, not have to be. This causes a great amount of respect for management and those running the company.

Whether they know it or not, the staff at MeetingMatrix are deeply engaged in the culture of their workplace and their position as hosts. This is vital to the 'aliens' they are receiving. Their hospitality has been so sincere, that in just a couple of weeks, we don't really feel very alien at all.

Laurie Frank
MeetingMatrix Intern

Monday, March 21, 2011

Does Music Boost Productivity?

music and diagramming
There have been many studies done as of late about whether or not listening to music while working on any task would boost productivity. I know that I, a college student, have been listening to music while doing homework, projects, or any tasks assigned to me ever since elementary school. I feel that in silence I can get distracted far too easily, and music helps to activate the part of my brain that wanders and keeps it occupied; for as long as I like the song that is.

There was a trial done a few years ago where 75 out of 256 workers in a large retail company were given a Walkman to listen to while working, and were pleased to notice that there was a 10% increase in productivity. Another study done by the University of Illinois found a 6.3% increase when compared to the people who don't listen to music. It has also been proven that while listening to music with an upbeat rhythm can reduce stress hormones levels by a whopping 41%!

I was personally amused to learn that the two best genres of music that would help you work were baroque and rock music. I listen to neither, much preferring to listen to the awesome music that is Lady Gaga, Gorillaz, and Michael Jackson while working. Intrigued by this, I decided to look up some popular groups that people have said inspired them to get their work done better and faster, and the top grounds I found were Queen, Eminem [odd, because he's rarely uplifting], Bon Jovi, Chumba Wumba, and Europe. Quite a mishmash!

I'm not saying that you should be jamming out to some hard core rap while trying to draw diagrams, but perhaps having one earbud in your ear with some softly playing classical or classic rock wouldn't hurt. I know I certainly enjoy it!

Sarah Mathews
Data Quality Specialist

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

PCMA Convening Leaders 2011

PCMA Convening Leaders
Certain events in a person’s life irrevocably change the sequence of events that follow. PCMA in January was such an event for me this year. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to really understand, comprehend, and appreciate all that has happened in the weeks that followed. My hope is that I successfully convey every INCREDIBLE moment to those who read this blog entry.

Tony Hsieh
, of Zappos.com fame, gave the PCMA Keynote speech this year. When the session broke, you could almost feel the tendrils of energy and excitement flowing back and forth among the attendees. ‘Wow’ was a word that seemed to be a chorus as attendees moved to their next session, but it was hard to tell whether they were talking about the WOW service at Zappos.com, or that Tony himself wowed them.

Jmîchaeĺe Keller, our President and CEO attended PCMA and moderated a Student Panel discussion (which is another blog in and of itself). More importantly, he heard Tony Hsieh’s keynote and it resonated deeply within him

The keynote and Jmîchaeĺe’s reaction to it set off a chain of events within MeetingMatrix that are still occurring.

Jmîchaeĺe has always been a visionary and has brought concepts to our Company that many would consider unconventional. One such concept is T.I.M.E. (Task Inspired Management Environment) which gives everyone in MeetingMatrix freedom to craft their work schedules (hours, days off, vacations, etc.) in a way that meets each individual’s personal goals, as well as company goals.

As a result of the PCMA Keynote and Jmîchae?e we at MeetingMatrix are now on a quest to adapt and mold a version of the Zappos.com Culture to our own.

This may sound like a simple undertaking…. just make some changes to how you hire and fire, right? Not so fast.

purchased Amazon Kindle readers for every MeetingMatrix Associate plus two books: Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness” and “Tribal Leadership”. These became the foundation for what we call our Cultural Re=Evolution. Everyone has read both books and become immersed in reinventing our company.

A Cultural Re=Evolution Team was formed to give a focus and facilitate integration of all associates within the company in driving this change. Our annual company meeting which we affectionately refer to as “staff”, will take on a completely different format this year. Changes will take place in areas including seating style, our team building event, and our ‘fun’ night.

To join in our Re=Evolution visit Culture Studio™, the cure for the common workplace.

Lydia Montgomery
Assistant Director of Sales

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Press Release

Starwood Hotels and Resorts

MeetingMatrix International to Provide iPlan™ Interactive Floor Plans to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

MeetingMatrix International of Portsmouth, NH announces agreement to provide e-diagrams to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc. properties worldwide. MeetingMatrix International will provide e-diagrams though their iPlan™ Interactive Floor Plans™ Solution.

Portsmouth, NH, January 6, 2010 -- MeetingMatrix International of Portsmouth, NH announced an agreement to provide e-diagrams to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc. properties worldwide. MeetingMatrix International will provide e-diagrams through their iPlan™ Interactive Floor Plans™ Solution, which includes Certified Room Diagrams®, Enhanced Campus Maps™, Stacked Floor Plans™, and Capacity Charts. The first phase will be focused on the Starwood Convention Collection.

"We are pleased to partner with Starwood Hotels & Resorts," said Jmîchaeĺe Keller, President and CEO of MeetingMatrix. "It speaks volumes that industry leaders select our company and technology as their standard for Interactive Floor Plans. It validates our strategy of building online connections between venues and their customers. Our products make it easy for venues to interact with leisure guests and event planners via the internet."

During this initial roll out each property will work with MeetingMatrix to develop and implement iPlan™ Interactive Floor Plans. The Westin Charlotte and The Sheraton Dallas which served as pilot hotels are already fully implemented and live.

"We are very happy to partner with MeetingMatrix on our new eDiagrams offering," said David Dvorak, CMP, Vice President Catering & Convention Services, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. "We chose Meeting Matrix because of their industry leadership and the trust they have built within the meeting planning community to deliver a product that is easy to use but more importantly guarantees the accuracy of meeting room setups."

" eDiagrams provide our customers and sales teams with a tool to accurately show how a meeting will work within our hotels directly on line. eDiagrams add another key eSuite product to our list of offerings which allows Starwood to continue to offer Planners tools that help them book and plan meetings at our hotels."

MeetingMatrix 2010 is the foundation on which iPlan and Starwood's e-diagrams are based. In use by over 30,000 planners and venues worldwide, it allows users to create room setups in seconds, make and see changes on the fly, and virtually walk through their room setups in realtime 3D. It's an ideal marketing and sales communication tool between venues and planners.