If I gave your project $500,000 how would you spend it? If I took away $500,000 what wouldn’t you do? How many meetings are happening in your organization every day? These meetings are a huge draw on your budget but do they deliver value? In many organizations meetings seem to be a way of life. I continually hear stories how people have their calendar booked Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Speaking from experience it is very difficult to do any value-add work when you’re meeting like this!
At one organization I observed it was common place for everyone in the room to have a laptop open. The benefit of this is you didn’t need to print anything for meetings. Information was readily available as you could go to a document for the most up to date information. The downside was everything else people did while sitting in the meeting. They even had an internal instant messenger service so it was really easy for people to become distracted. In this organization they figured the solution was to change the default meeting duration from 60 to 45 minutes. By not changing anything else all they did was to shorten the length of time this waste was occurring in.
The waste this creates from my observations largely revolved around those who aren’t paying attention:
- Missed opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways
- Wasted time as questions were repeated
- The distraction of someone in the room actively working on something else
- Not working on other higher priority activities (ie. being somewhere else)
At more than one meeting I was required to attend I started to loosely keep track of the productivity level (too difficult to observe all in the room to make this scientific).
For one meeting here’s my data:
$70 per hour bill back rate
x 1 hour
$1,050 hourly cost of meeting
Studies show task switching costs as much as 40%. Therefore by not having everyone focus in this meeting would be:
The value derived = $1,050 * 60% = $630
The value lost = 1,050 * 40% = $420
The $420 may not seem like much but what if we maintained this pace of meetings for 6 hours per day. Every day you would throw away $2,520. If you continued to do this for the 200 working days in the year it means you just threw away $504,000? If this is just one program team, what if the organization has 10 such teams. That number just jumped to more than $5 million each year!
I’m not going to write a laundry list of how to eliminate waste in meetings. There is lots of great information out there already on how to make meetings effective. What I will do is strongly suggest you pause to take a good hard look at the value of the meetings you do have. I believe meetings are a necessary evil as they can bring together people who don’t sit together. Typical status meetings are rarely valuable as the common approach I see amounts to a lot of blah blah blah around this milestone or that task. Meetings with clear purpose, attended by only the right people, and well facilitated to keep them on track can provide some value.
Rather than having 60 minute meetings every hour what if cut them to 30 mins? At the same time ban all electronics in the meetings. Quickly you will find only those who will contribute or derive value will be showing up. Celebrate! Then have the participants take the other 30 mins and do something even more valuable for the customer.
If you’re really not sure the extra $500,000 would make a difference … just go talk to you customer and ask them if they can find something valuable to do with it!