Finally the summer break in all of the major European soccer leagues is over and the new seasons have started. While we saw a crazy game day in Germany with 39 goals and seven away wins in nine matches (and one of the two home wins was newcomers – or better “returners” – Kaiserslautern winning over Bayern Munich), England, Spain and Italy took it a bit slower.
Speaking of “taking it slow”: Do you know the feeling that when you’re watching a match you get the impression that watching the first half was a waste of time while the second half is when it gets hot? Take last weekend for example: 14 of the 22 goals in the English Premier League came in the second half (64%) while in Spain it were 18 of 28 (69%) in the eight matches on Saturday and Sunday.
I wondered what the reasons for this could be. Maybe in the early phases of a match both teams try to understand how their opponents play and try get used to the match. They don’t feel a great urgency as there’s still a long time to go and try to play tactically well instead of taking risks. They aren’t tired and therefore not eager to get to a decision quickly. Then in the second half of the match, players feel that the end is coming closer. The sense of urgency goes up, they are ready to take some risk to come to the result they were looking for and got a higher confidence in playing together than in the initial phase of the match.
It’s the dynamics of groups working together with time constraints.
You probably also know the situation of being in a group and having to fulfill a task in a certain time. Maybe in a meeting, at a seminar or in a project. Is it any different from soccer?
I was once talking to a very experienced facilitator who told me that he can always feels how teams pick up speed after half the time they have to come to a solution is up. And the reasons are probably the same that I mentioned for soccer matches above: Sense of urgency, better understanding, confidence and risk taking.
The problem: While it’s your choice to not put your TV set on until halftime, walking into meetings just after half the scheduled time is over may not be so easy to put in practice.
However there’s one advantage you have in meetings: While a soccer match normally lasts 90 minutes, it’s up to you to set the duration of your meetings. So why not play around with it a little bit?
Nicole Steinbok presented her idea of a 22 minute meeting. That’s just a quarter of a soccer match. She explains it in a five minute presentation here which is really worth watching. Her concept includes sending required reading beforehand, starting on time, standing up and disallowing all distractions like laptops or mobile phones. Sense of urgency!
But there’s also another way of playing around with timing. It seems like it does not matter too much when exactly the half time comes, but after half of the time the quality goes up. So why not move the half time forward? Yes, I know, “half time” got it’s name from being, right, at the half of the time.
But what if you schedule a meeting for an hour and tell the people that you only had 40 minutes when they come in. By doing so you move the half time up 10 minutes. Now two things can happen: Either Nicole is right and the overall duration of meetings matters less than we think. Then you get the results after 40 minutes and saved 20 minutes of meeting times (multiply it by the number of participants and you can see the value).
Or it’s not so easy and you don’t come to a solution after 40 minutes. However in that case the group started to work efficiently after 20 minutes, so if you chose to extend the meeting back to one hour, the group most likely won’t fall back to the old behavior. That gives you 40 minutes of quality meeting instead of just 30, which also means value.
And let’s be honest: The second half may be fun, but extra time and penalty shoot outs are even better…