M.I.N.M.: Black Jack
Who: George S. Katsarakes, EVP and COO, TII Industries Inc.
Players: More than 70 people from TII's headquarters and its international facilities, with at least one representative from every department in attendance
Frequency: Every morning at 9:09 ET
Why I Never Miss It:"It's my daily opportunity to check in on the company and its employees."
The daily Black Jack meeting at TII Industries is not about gambling — anything but. The midsize company, which makes lightning- and surge-protection systems for the telecom industry, takes no chances when it comes to making sure that its customers and 1,000 employees are happy. So, every morning, more than 70 key leaders and managers of various TII facilities and departments — from the Caribbean to China to headquarters in Copiague, New York — have a conference call to check on the firm's well-being.
According to executive vice president and COO George S. Katsarakes, 62, who is not only the meeting's leader but also its creator, the goal is to make sure that no critical issues — from an employee injury to a missed delivery — slip through the cracks. "By including so many people, we get a full report," he says. "And we create a sense of group accountability." Why the name Black Jack? Says Katsarakes: "The meeting can't exceed 21 minutes. If it does, we lose."
Act fast. "The idea is to act on critical company developments within 24 hours of when they occur. Holding the meeting live, via conference call, helps create a sense of urgency."
No problem solving allowed. "We keep the meeting focused and short by restricting problem solving to offline discussions. Typically, these conversations happen right after Black Jack. The expectation is that any problem brought up during the meeting will be addressed by the next day's meeting."
"We keep to the same script every day. I ask three questions. First: Did anybody get hurt anywhere? Second: Are all of our customers happy? Sales and customer-service departments from different facilities report on any new problems — from late shipments to customer complaints — as well as on issues that have been resolved in the past 24 hours. Third: Are there any other hot issues — good or bad — at any of our facilities? We make sure that all of these new issues have been assigned to the person in the best position to address them."
"Before each meeting, we email everyone two reports. One is a Black Jack report, which includes company-performance information: completed customer shipments and sales figures. The other is a status report detailing progress made on hot issues raised at the previous meeting."
A version of this article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.