Earlier this week, I visited the San Francisco headquarters of Pivotal — the $US2.8 billion enterprise software company backed by the likes of Ford, Microsoft, and GE — for a coffee meeting.
Upon arrival, I couldn’t help but notice two things:
First, the fact that almost every Pivotal employee in sight was clustered up for an all-hands meeting. Second, those few employees who snuck away from the pack were helping themselves to Pivotal’s very generous breakfast buffet — sausage, egg, fruit salad, the works.
Over coffee, Pivotal CEO Rob Mee explained the surprising thought that goes into that morning meeting, which is held every day at 9:06 a.m. No, that’s not a typo. It’s 9:06, on the dot, every single morning.
See, what appears to be another lavish startup perk turns out to be an effective trick to make the company’s programmers more productive.
The problem, Mee says Pivotal was finding, is that if left to their own devices, programmers are late risers. It was common for Pivotal’s engineers to roll into the office around 10 or 11 in the morning. They’d get in to the office, maybe send a few emails…and then almost immediately break for lunch.
“The morning was too short, and wasn’t very effective,” explains Mee.
So Pivotal decided to employ both a stick and a carrot. The stick is a mandatory morning meeting at 9am, where your absence will likely be noted. The carrot is the breakfast buffet, “sort of a prize to get in,” Mee says.
But then Pivotal employees started to get a little anxious. If they hit traffic, or their bus broke down, or whatever else can go wrong with a commute, there was no wiggle room. And so it was decided that the meeting should be at 9:05 a.m.
This, too, presented a problem: Mee says that developers would tell him that 9:05 was so close to 9 o’clock that it didn’t actually feel much later. Making it 9:06 a.m. apparently addressed the issue. The extra minute makes Pivotal’s employees feel less like they’re rushing. And so, the 9:06 a.m. daily breakfast meeting was born.
I didn’t get to sample the buffet — I had already eaten breakfast, and I’m not a Hobbit that can go for elevensies. But boy, did that smell good.