In 2013, the average length of a Major League Baseball game was over 3 hours, plagued by long interruptions and stalling by managers and players. Does that remind you of some of the interminable meetings you’ve attended at work?
Last fall, the MLB implemented new “pace of game” rules to move the action along faster, and so far, they seem to be working. The average game time has dropped 8 to 11 minutes from a year ago.
So what lessons can you take from MLB to make your business meetings and presentations move along faster, but still be effective?
Here are the MLB’s major takeaways from their tests in the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2014, and how you might re-imagine them in the meeting room.
A pitcher shall be allowed 20 seconds to throw each pitch.
20-Second Rule for speakers: Each person speaking or leading an agenda item has 20 seconds to introduce his or her topic. Someone keeps an “agenda” clock, and if the speaker doesn’t make her “wind-up” before the time is up, she loses her place on the agenda. Discussions should be kept on-topic and not stray to tangents or personal anecdotes that don’t move the work forward. Anyone guilty of leading the discussion astray gets to stay late that night.
Batter's Box Rule
The batter shall keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout his at-bat or face the imposition of a fine.
Batter’s Box Rule in the boardroom: Attendees must refrain from texting or scrolling through Facebook during the meeting. When important information is being discussed, they need to be paying attention to avoid the speaker having to repeat herself. Anyone who says “Can you repeat that?” has to pay a fine in the form of a coffee run the next morning.
No-Pitch Intentional Walks
In the event a team decides to intentionally walk a batter, no pitches shall be thrown. Instead, the manager shall signal to the home plate umpire with four fingers, and the batter should proceed to first base to become a runner.
Intentional Walks on your agenda: Skip it completely. This ingenious rule saves all the time wasted on things you really can’t get to right now. If a discussion item isn’t relevant to your assembled attendees, give yourself the four-fingered signal and don’t even bother putting it on the agenda.
2:30 Break Clocks
There shall be a maximum 2:30 break between innings and for pitching changes. Consequences include batters getting a strike if they’re not ready, and pitchers giving up a “ball” if they don’t throw on time.
Break Clock for your meetings: Okay, let’s be honest. If your meeting or presentation is going to be long enough to need breaks, it should have refreshments and entertainment scheduled, too.
Seriously though, break lengths should be clearly delineated, allowing attendees enough time to stretch, use the restroom, get a snack or have a meal. In return, they should be respected by all attendees. Consequences include missing out on vital information, or embarrassing the rest of your presentation team, and can lead to serious implications for your project or your job.
Three "Time Out" Limit
A manager, coach or player will not be permitted to call a fourth time out in violation of this Rule. In such cases, the game will continue uninterrupted, and offenders may be subject to discipline.
"Time Out" Limit in the office: Stop stopping. When a business manager calls employees into a meeting, but then allows interruptions for phone calls or answering important emails or texts, that can waste employees’ available work time and shows disrespect for their attention. Sure, we should allow people to be human, but leaders need to enforce rules by example.
Limit the possibility of interruptions, or your meeting attendees might wander off to continue their work. Similarly, if attendees have stepped out of the meeting or you are coming back from a break, resume your discussions or presentations on time no matter how many people have returned to their seats to keep the action on track, and adjourn on time.