In a typical Agile or Scrum environment if there’s one thing that reduces productivity and efficiency, its people being late for meetings. Valuable minutes, which soon add up to hours and days, are lost while the team waits for the stragglers to arrive.

Waste = bad

Waiting is one of the sevens wastes of Muda, as categorized by Taiichi Ohno within the Toyota production system. Lean teaches us to focus on eliminating all waste, so working to get meetings started on time is a great way to eliminate waste and improve productivity.

And remember that in order to assess the real amount of wastage, the waiting time must be multiplied by the number of team members waiting, because potentially most of the could be wasting time waiting for just one person.

The Nike Solution


One solution is , in the words of famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It”. Start the meeting on time and anyone that’s late simply misses out. While this sounds fine in theory, it doesn’t necessarily work as well in practice. With tight-knit Agile teams, keeping everyone on the same page is essential, and information often needs to be repeated for late-comers. So starting on time regardless of who’s there may actually end up creating more waste, not less.

Still this may be an effective strategy for some teams. Another approach is to try to get people to turn up to meetings on time.

Economics to the rescue

Economics teaches that people respond to incentives, either Positive or Negative. So it would seem that the best way to get people to start meetings on time is through providing some incentive for them to be there on time. I’m now going to share with you three incentives that might help you get your meetings started on time.

The Rubber Chicken

rubber chicken

The rubber chicken, wait for it, involves a rubber chicken (as pictured above.) You can pick one of these up for a few dollars on the internet. The idea is that whoever is late to the meeting, has to hold on to the rubber chicken for the duration of the meeting. The theory is that this somewhat embarrassing incentive will be enough to encourage team members to turn up on time.  (Thanks to Kane Marr from Scrumology for this tip)

The Gold Coin

The Gold Coin requires that anyone who is late to a meeting is required to drop a gold coin into a “tip jar”. The “tip jar” is then periodically donated to an agreed charity, or used for another purpose such as buying the team coffee or cakes.  The beauty of this method is that the team members don’t have to make up excuses for being late, or interrupt the meeting with apologies.  They can simply walk in the room, place their coin in the container, and then take their place in the meeting.

(Note that Australia has $1 and $2 gold coins. You may need to modify for other countries)



The Donuts method uses a positive incentive, rather than a negative one.  You simply have donuts (or chocolate or cake) at the beginning of the meeting.  The kicker here though is to have a small amount and allow second and third helpings.  Enough that everyone could get some, but that late-comers will probably miss out.  For example, you could cut donuts into four – say twelve or sixteen quarters for a team of eight.


So there you have it. Three way to incentivize your team members to attend meetings on time. Remember that in the spirit of Agile, any of these methods should be adopted and agreed by the team themselves, rather than having the method enforced on the team.

Let me know how you get on with these methods, or share your own method of how you get meetings started on time.