How Marimba Keeps In Step

Meeting I Never Miss

Who: Kim Polese, polese@marimba.com

Company: Marimba, http://www.marimba.com

Title: President and CEO

MINM: All-Hands Meeting

Frequency: Every Tuesday at 11 AM

Purpose: To get the entire staff up to date on the latest developments -- from sales and hiring to parties we're planning; to give everybody face time and a voice to discuss their concerns.

Why I Never Miss It: It's my chance to learn from the entire staff.

When Kim Polese, 35, left Sun Microsystems in 1996 to found software company Marimba, she insisted on taking one thing along -- the "All-Hands Meeting." Polese says she never willingly skipped the weekly ritual during her seven years at Sun for fear of "missing huge shifts in strategy or some major drama." Marimba's All-Hands Meeting combines real-time change with an exuberant communal energy that keeps its 40 young employees locked on the goal of outpacing the pack of push-technology competitors.

Guiding Principle

Don't waste people's time -- it's irritating, disrespectful, and wastes money.

Best Practice

Be prepared. Don't allow excessive digressions. And end early if you've covered everything. There comes a point in the meeting when we all dive into discussions about company strategy -- but we don't go too far. After a few minutes, I'll call a time-out and take the topic o>ine for later discussion.

Talking Stick

Everybody speaks up -- there are no real protocols. I give a general status report and various people talk about particular issues -- upcoming deals in Japan, our order status. Then I talk about staffing -- there's always someone new here. To close, I ask if anyone else has anything they want to say, and someone always does. The All-Hands meeting always ends on a high note.

Setting

A big conference room with a bunch of floppy chairs -- people just fling themselves down.

Dress Code

Ultracasual: cut-off shorts and T-shirts. Sales people, of course, wear suits.

Audio/Visual

I take action items down in my notebook.

Energy Source

If it's someone's birthday, we'll have cake.

Postgame

The meeting takes place right before lunch so people get together to eat and discuss things that got cut off during the All Hands.

Most Memorable

The most dramatic All Hands was at FirstPerson, a Sun spin-off. We were all expecting to hear that we'd be going in one direction. What we got was a complete reversal. Jobs changed then and there, and the company was repositioned in real time.

Matt Goldberg is an editor for Tripod (http://www.tripod.com) in New York City.

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