Meetings are frequently a fix for poor leadership. Most would rather go to a movie than sit in a two-hour meeting. Almost all poor movies at least contain a beginning, middle, and end. Indirect meeting costs represent a huge area for cost control and improved return on investment.
Meetings are very expensive. Today’s business world is asymmetric, and holding meetings to share information may be a poor use of precious resources. Dashboard devices provide a better means for information updates than staff meetings. The Scrum approach addresses three questions during daily Scrums, but participants requently remain standing so that meetings adjourn quicker:
- What was accomplished since we last met?
- What accomplishments are targeted next?
- Which challenges require additional support?
The best reason to pull people together is to build something that we cannot do apart, to arrive at consensus, to decide on something. Consider replacing weekly meetings with periodic workshops, knowing that the use of facilitators greatly improves productivity.
Role of Meetings
We live in a meeting society. Along with billions of people, our world also contains more than 200 nation-states, 4 million local communities, 20 million economic organizations, 200 million extended families, and hundreds of millions of other formal and informal groups. In order for groups to exist, individuals that make up these groups must meet and interact.
The increased growth in the number and length of meetings is due to the accelerated rate of change that now rules today’s business environment. The rapid and constant change in technology, particularly information technology and business process management, has dramatically increased the volatility of the global market place. As technology takes over more routine functions, and allows faster access to data, managerial skills shift, calling for increased communications clarity and small group skills.
Another trend emerging as a result of an accelerated environment is the growth of more efficient and flatter organization structures.These organizations have fewer management layers and, therefore fewer levels of decision-making. Flatter structures result in more group decision-making by specialists from disparate areas within the organization. Consequently, the ability to effectively communicate cross-functional support in meetings has taken on increased importance.
A by-product from replacing hierarchy with holarchy is an increasing emphasis on participative employee ownership. Participative management bases itself on the following premises:
- The quality of decisions are improved if all employee expertise is considered, and
- The act of employee participation leads to better acceptance of the decisions.
50 Percent Productive
Studies have estimated that meetings are at most 50 percent productive. Thus the typical manager wastes approximately 240 hours per year (about 30 days) at a cost to the average Fortune 500 Company of greater than one hundred billion USD per year. By using proper meeting management, a single company could recover 25 to 35 percent of these costs, or hundreds of millions per year.
The intangible costs associated with poor meeting management are overlooked at all levels of management. Meetings serve as opportunities for senior management to appraise and search out potential leaders within an organization. As lower level managers take on more responsibilities, they spend more of their time in meetings with executives at higher levels. Consequently, their success as executives is tied to their ability to make the most out of their meeting time.
Participating in a poorly run meeting is frustrating, resulting in apathy, resentment, and a lack of commitment toward the meeting’s outcome. This attitude carries over to the workplace. Therefore, in many cases, subverting good ideas that come from the meetings.
People and organizations have develop “meeting dementia because poorly run meetings have been around so long and remain prevalent. Some view poorly run and unproductive meetings as the norm, and that’s just the way it is. This viewpoint seems to have been inherited by observing others who have lead poorly run meetings, who in turn learned from others making the same mistakes, and so on.
Indirect Meeting Costs and Challenges
The major problems with meetings, surprisingly, don’t have to do with personalities or the inability of group members to get along with one another. Almost all problems are typically task-related—ie, people do not know the mechanics of HOW TO lead effective meetings. The following list highlights 14 of the most frequently mentioned problems by over 1,000 managers:
- Getting off subject
- No goals or agenda
- Too long
- Poor preparation
- Ineffective leader/ lack of control
- Irrelevant information discussed
- Time wasted
- Started late
- Ineffective for making decisions
- Interruptions (inside and out)
- Rambling discussion
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