Thursday, February 28, 2008

Unsolicited Rant: 30 Minutes I'll Never Get Back

By Matt:

I'm sure this is the first of many posts about pointless meetings:

I just got out of a 30-minute meeting that was scheduled yesterday at the last minute - as usual, sent to me via Outlook with me listed as a "required attendee", a vague subject listed, and no agenda indicated. I always hate this because I never know what I'm getting into until 10 minutes into the meeting, and by then my frustration has morphed into hate.

Well the meeting was a disaster. Turns out we were on this conference call with a client talking about promotions that had nothing to do with the accounts I manage. As is often the case I was invited merely because the conversation involved people with my department... but not because anything was actually needed of me. One of those "how many account managers does it take to change a lightbulb?" situations, and certainly 30 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

If you're in charge of running meetings at your corporate job, do yourself and everyone else a favor, and consider these meeting hacks below:
  • If you schedule the meeting via Outlook or some other electronic invite, include a detailed description of what you want to accomplish in the meeting.
  • Only invite people that NEED to be there... if you want others to attend for informational purposes, mark them as Optional, and let them make the decision.
  • Send an agenda and explicitly list the involvement you expect from each member.
  • If you have one, include a meeting "best practices" on the agenda. This should include such behaviors as no cell phone use, no blackberry use, etc. There is nothing worse than a distracted multi-tasker while you're trying to conduct a useful meeting.
  • Start the meeting on time. End it on time. If people come late and realize you've already begun, they'll be embarrassed and arrive on time at the next meeting.
In a perfect world, meetings wouldn't exist. Since they do, at least try to make them tolerable instead of mind-numbing and infuriating.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Unsolicited Rant: The Travel Bureau(cracy)

By Matt:

Next week I head off to San Francisco on a business trip - doing a couple account visits and making some sales presentations... typical stuff. Getting business trips approved, however, suddenly seemed to get dramatically more difficult at my company.

Like most large corporations, we have a dedicated 'travel agent' who works for the company and books travel on behalf of all the employees. Now here's the process by which we must get approved for travel...

First, I have to get a quote from the agent - an estimate for how much the trip will cost including the airfare, car rental, and hotel. I did this last Friday, and the agent got back to me with a quote for $750.

Next I have to fill out a Travel Authorization Form, and naturally like all good corporations we're obsessed with acronyms so it's simply abbreviated as the TAF Form... which of course is redundant. The TAF is this archaic little Excel workbook that has to get emailed all over the place. I start by filling out the TAF with my trip info and email it to my boss who needs to 'approve' the trip. My boss then emails the TAF to our Division Head, who also needs to approve the trip. And of course two levels of approval is nowhere near enough... the TAF still needs to go to the CFO of the company who has the final say. Wow! Really?

So on Friday I get my quote from the agent. I email the form to my boss, who is out of town and doesn't get to it right away... Monday afternoon it gets emailed on to our Division Head and by Tuesday it goes on to the CFO, where it sits... and sits. Apparently the CFO is out of town, and of course there is no work-around - all trips must be approved by the CFO. So while I wait through Tuesday, and then Wednesday, and then Thursday, airline prices continue to rise, and my trip is coming up in just three days. I finally get everyone to sign off on the thing on Thursday afternoon and email the approvals to the travel agent who proceeds to book the trip.

But oops, travel agent girl doesn't have my corporate card info, so can I please "email in my credit card number?" What, really, email my credit card number? Now that's a plan for data security... sheesh!

Well the final cost of the trip ends up being $900, up $150 from the original quote. Why? Because I need three levels of approval to make certain we aren't frivolously wasting money traipsing across the country on business trips. Sound logic, huh? Good grief, it wasn't this hard to get my father-in-law's approval to marry his daughter!!

Companies are rife with bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo like this... Anyone else have some ridiculous stories trying to make trips on behalf of the company? Email them to thecorporatehack {@} and we'll publish it here!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


By Jon:

The productivity gurus over at have assembled a list of 50 items to help you be more productive. That sounds pretty daunting, and well, it is. However, it's a pretty exhaustive list that details the high points from most productivity experts, including GTD, 4-Hour Workweek, Merlin Mann/43 Folders, 7 Habits, and on and on from there.

Lifehack's 50 Tricks to GTD More Productively

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Corporate Hack

By Matt and Jon:

hack [hak] - verb or noun:
(1) To manage successfully
(2) One who works hard at boring tasks
(3) To withstand or put up with a difficult situation

So what is "The Corporate Hack"? Or maybe more importantly, who is "The Corporate Hack"?

We started this blog to speak to, and perhaps on behalf of, a new generation of young professionals. Fresh out of college, and fresh with new ideas, we arrive in corporate America with grand (and likely naive) ideas of how we're going to change our industries and our world.

Noble goals they are, but all too often quickly dashed by the realities that are office politics, performance assessments, and of course the bottom line.

The Corporate Hack is for the new flock of twenty-somethings, and perhaps even thirty-somethings, looking to find their place in the real world. When it comes down to it, we figure there's a lot of young professionals who are a lot like us, out there asking the same questions about work-life as we are:

  • How do I navigate corporate culture?
  • How do I deal with relentless and ridiculous management?
  • How can I stop wasting time on the meaningless things and be more productive and efficient doing what I was really hired for?
  • And probably most importantly, how do I find fulfillment?

So who is the corporate hack? It's us. Putting up with the difficult situations... working hard at the boring tasks... But the real hack is managing the corporate world successfully, and that's what we hope to provide with this blog: a resource for you to get things done, to move up, to be successful, to find fulfillment -- and hopefully have some fun, and a few laughs, along the way. So, welcome to The Corporate Hack... you're one of us!!

We would love to hear from you if you have questions or comments - leave us a note below, or send us an email to thecorporatehack {at} To meet the Editors of The Corporate Hack please read our bios!