Here’s Why A Former PayPal Exec Absolutely Hates Meetings

Here’s Why A Former PayPal Exec Absolutely Hates Meetings

JILLIAN D’ONFRO TECH  MAR. 15, 2014, 9:47 PM

In the early days of PayPal, David Sacksmanaged over 700 employees as the company’s COO.

According to an interesting Quora post, Sacks hated meetings while he was leading PayPal. Former senior executive Keith Rabois wrote that Sacks was skeptical of any meeting that included more than three or four people. He would randomly pop in on meetings, and immediately shut them down if he decided that they seemed inefficient. PayPal’s annual review forms in 2002 even rated employees on whether they avoided “imposing on others’ time, e.g. scheduling unnecessary meetings.”

Why did Sacks despite meetings? Luckily, he explains his reasoning in yet another Quora thread.

Email culture is vastly superior to meeting culture, Sacks believes, because people can make progress on dozens of issues simultaneously by email in the time it would take simply to organize their schedules for a single meeting. The quality of decisions made from emails are also better because there’s no arbitrary “end time” — people can respond when they’re ready, while pulling in additional people and information if needed.

He writes that large meetings also hint at underlying organizational problems. By popping in on meetings occasionally, he got a better understanding of how the company was organized, and what its weaknesses might be. “If a dozen people from product, marketing, sales, etc., are meeting to hash out international issues on a frequent basis, perhaps it’s time to create an international team dedicated to solving these problems,” Sacks writes. “I got a feel for refinements that we should make to the org chart, such as adding new teams to cover unmet needs or re-defining roles to avoid overlaps in job responsibilities.”

 

Why did David Sacks crack down on meetings at PayPal?

This is a follow-up question to PayPal: What strong beliefs on culture for entrepreneurialism did Peter / Max / David have at PayPal?.

David O Sacks, Original COO and product leader of PayPal 

Votes by Ari ShahdadiRichard HenryAlbert SheuTracy Chou, and 395 more.

I want to add some color to Keith Rabois‘s point (“David enforced an anti-meeting culture where any meeting that included more than 3-4 people was deemed suspect and subject to immediate adjournment if he gauged it inefficient.”).
Hopefully it’s obvious that an email culture is vastly superior to a meeting culture. A group of people can make progress on dozens of issues simultaneously by email in the time it would take to organize their schedules for a single meeting. Also, the quality of decisions made by email is frequently better because there’s no arbitrary need to make a decision by the end of the meeting; people can respond when they are ready, and easily pull in additional participants and information as needed.
What may be less obvious is that PayPal at one point suffered from a meeting culture. In the wake of the merger with X.com bank, PayPal had twice as many VPs as it needed (half were former banking executives) and was led by the former CEO of a big finance company, who set the example by holding excruciating hours-long meetings of the aforementioned execs. These management issues were eventually resolved, but the culture had to change as well. The crack-down on meetings was a deliberate attempt to restore the “true” startup culture of the company. It did not prevent impromptu collaboration or brainstorming sessions, out of which many of PayPal’s best ideas came.
The other reason to keep tabs on large meetings was that they could be symptomatic of an underlying organizational problem. For example, if a dozen people from product, marketing, sales, etc, are meeting to hash out international issues on a frequent basis, perhaps it’s time to create an International team dedicated to solving these issues. Or perhaps people are meeting excessively because it’s not clear who owns an area. By “popping in” on meetings occasionally, I got a feel for refinements that we should make to the org chart, such as adding new teams to cover unmet needs or re-defining roles to avoid overlap in job responsibilities.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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