In this post I’ll reveal a method that will:

  • Eliminate useless meetings, like weekly staff meetings.
  • Free you up for more productive work.
  • Let you stay updated and on top of things at a single glance.

We taught this method to hundreds of companies using’s management system. These companies range from 9-900 employees. But first…


Here’s my experience with staff meetings:

  • They are too long.
  • When they’re over you’re stuck with a long list of tasks for people, who you then need to chase to get updates from.
  • They’re a huge waste of time.

The triangle hack

I’d like to tell you about this hack I picked up when I was temping straight out of high school.

It was at an HR agency. Every week I would get a long printed list of candidates I had to call up and schedule interviews with.

I had the afternoon shift. The morning girl came up with this method. Instead of writing next to each candidate’s name “no answer”, or “left her a message” she would draw triangles. An empty triangle meant “Couldn’t reach them”. A half-full triangle meant “I left a message” and a  filled-in triangle meant “I set a date.”

Each day, when I took over from her, with one look I knew where things stood.

It was communication bliss. No misunderstandings. No waste of time.

One look and we knew where we stood.

Why was this so effective? Because:

  • Communication was not verbal, so there was no room for misunderstandings.
  • Communication was standardized: each symbol meant one thing, and one thing only. Again — no room for misunderstandings.
  • Communication was visual. We take in visual information much faster than verbal information. That’s why traffic lights are colors and not words.

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How do I use this simple method for complex work

1. Become a caveman / cavewoman. Create a basic language for updates made of symbols and a few words.

2. Make it visual. The language should include symbols or basic words supported by icons or a color code.

3. Make it clear. Each symbol can only mean one thing and one thing only.

4. Limit the options. For example, “On Hold”, “Working on it”, and “Done”.

5. Spread the word. Make sure everyone on your team knows and uses the language.

6. Use the cave walls. Create only one place dedicated for updates. This “place” can be a white board, or a Google spreadsheet or a collaboration system.

7. Don’t chase updates. Make it your team members’ responsibility to update, not yours to ask for updates.

8. No updates outside the cave. Refuse to accept updates in emails or in any other place besides the one you decided on. Motivate the team to use the system you chose, by showing them that when they do use it — you know they’re working and making progress.

9. If you don’t have anything (nice) to say, don’t say anything. Tell your employees to only update when they have something real to say. When they’ve made progress. When they need feedback. When they’re stuck or delayed and when they’ve completed a task. This will reduce the level of noise. But even better, it will motivate employees to make progress, so that they have something “nice” to say.

10. The game changer. Here are two things that turn updates from reading into knowing: Position and visualization.

11. Go silent. Try out Jeff Bezos’ new favorite: Silent meetings.

Position means each update has its designated place. So your eye knows where to look for it. Just as your eye knows where to go on your car’s dashboard to see how much gas you have left. And just as your eye knows where to go on Facebook to see the number of Likes you got. Your eye should know where to go to view the status of a task or a tasks’s owner.

Visualization means you take all verbal updates and turn them into images. You can replace words with symbols or just enhance words with a color code. Either way, keep them fixed and standardized. Keep it simple. Go with the obvious. It’s easy to remember that Red means On Hold and Green means Done.

Success! Eliminate useless meetings

Now that you have everyone updating in one place and in one way, you can stay updated with one glance.

And unlike those notes you used to take during staff meetings, now you don’t need to chase people for updates. The updates are live.

So say hello to a live display of updates you can grasp with a glance. And say goodbye to weekly staff meetings.

For a team of 20 people, this means you just gained 40 weekly hours. I’m sure you have plenty of productive things to do with this time.

Photo of street lights: Raymond Brown, Photo of meeting: Texas A&M University

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