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Faculty & Research


Too Many Meetings? Scheduling Rules for Team Coordination

Journal Article
Workers in knowledge-intensive industries often complain of having too many meetings, but organizations still give little thought to deciding when or how often to meet. The authors investigate the efficiency and robustness of various coordination scheduling rules. They consider workers who are engaged in a common activity (e.g., software programming) that can be divided into largely independent, parallel production tasks, but that necessitates periodic coordination. Coordination enables workers to address issues they have encountered in their independent work but takes time away from production. Using a stylized game-theoretic model, the authors show that small teams allow a more fluid, i.e., worker-driven, approach to scheduling coordination, such as preemptive coordination (or production), under which any worker can impose coordination (or production). In larger teams this becomes inefficient. Several approaches can mitigate this effect. One option is to allocate the decision rights to produce or coordinate to the most productive worker. A more general version is to implement a voting-based scheme, where a minimum number of workers from a predetermined subset choose to coordinate. A third approach is to modify the preemptive coordination and production rules by adding time-based controls, to reserve some minimal amount of productive time or to enforce coordination after some point. Finally, a fixed-interval meeting schedule works well for very large teams. This research helps formalize the tension between meeting (coordinating) and producing and indicates how to adapt team coordination scheduling rules to the degree of worker heterogeneity and team size.

Professor of Technology and Operations Management