Google's weekly all-company meetings are legendary in the sense that they represented the idea that even as the tech giant scaled massively it remained a tight-knit team. Anyone who worked there would have the same access to the top executives and could ask questions. It was one of the most prominent examples of the type of culture the company wanted to build. Now those weekly meetings, known as TGIF, are coming to an end.
That's according to an email, first reported by The Verge, sent from CEO Sundar Pichai to the company's 100,000-plus employees. In it, Pichai explains that moving forward, the meetings will instead be held monthly, and focus only on "product and business strategy."
According to Pichai, "TGIF has traditionally provided a place to come together, share progress, and ask questions, but it's not working in its current form." Pichai is pretty clear about what he means when he says it's "not working." In fact, he focuses on two specific problem. The first being that many people seem to attend not to hear about new initiatives within the company, but instead to "hear answers on other topics."
Steven Levy points out in an article for Wired that Pichai is likely referring to "recent moments when aggrieved employees registered objections to Google's policies and missteps."
Pichai also points to what he describes as "a coordinated effort to share our conversations outside of the company after every TGIF" which has "affected our ability to use TGIF as a forum for candid conversations on important topics."
Or, said another way, Google's culture-defining meeting was getting a little uncomfortable.
Here's the thing: separating leadership from the people they lead might eliminate the discomfort of hearing their complaints, but it doesn't actually eliminate those complaints. Instead, it communicates a lack of trust and respect.
Sure, some members of the team are going to share things beyond the walls of your meeting room. Sure, some members are going to bring their grievances into the room. Some of them might even make you uncomfortable because they hold you accountable for the decisions and policies you've made for your company. That's the point.
Not having the meeting doesn't change any of those things. It doesn't make people less upset. It doesn't make the problems go away. It doesn't decrease the chances that people will share information outside the company. Those things aren't happening because of the all-company meeting, they're happening because of a problem somewhere else in the culture of your company.
Frequent, open meetings actually prevent those problems from getting worse. Now, it's more likely that people will find other outlets for their concerns or problems, and they'll do it in ways that are completely out of the company's control.
At least when you get everyone in the room (even virtually) you have the opportunity to communicate not only information but the "why" behind the decisions you've made. It also gives you a chance to engage directly with your team, even when it's uncomfortable, and work through things together.
Building a company like Google isn't easy. It's going to be bumpy, especially as you grow and expand the people involved in making the company work. Sometimes people can make things messy, but they are still your team. You are their leader, and sometimes that's uncomfortable. But, without them, you're simply a guy in a room with an algorithm.
Obviously meetings are just a tool for communicating, and if the all-company meeting you've used to build your company's culture isn't working, then by all means ditch it. But if the reason you think it's not working is because it has gotten uncomfortable or because people aren't keeping your trust, that's not a problem with the meeting. It's a problem with your company.