Do you want to hear a sickening statistic? I write the SmartPulse poll for SmartBrief on Leadership (if you don’t read SmartBrief you’re missing out and should sign up here). Last week I asked how much time people spend in recurring meetings. The answer was shocking.
30% of respondents are spending 25%-75% of their time in recurring meetings. Oh my goodness. How can you possibly spend more time in meetings than you spend at your desk working? Unbelievable.
Clearly there’s a very simple way to boost productivity – kill some meetings. Imagine if you could take all that time you spend in meetings and turn it either into productive time getting stuff done or into time away from the office doing things you enjoy ding. The good news is, it’s reasonably easy to kill a meeting even if it isn’t “yours” to run.
First, let’s acknowledge meetings do have a place in our lives. They’re great tools for quickly and efficiently sharing information. Recurring meetings also have a place. They’re a good forcing mechanism to bring groups together around a certain topic and by having them recur on the calendar, you can efficiently circumvent crazy calendar synchronization challenges.
Unfortunately, once a meeting achieves “recurring” status it takes on a life of its own. That’s where the trouble begins. Fortunately there are four simple steps you can follow to eliminate wasteful meetings.
Determine the Cost
Time is money. For any recurring meeting it’s easy to ignore the cost involved in the time you invest around the conference table. For any recurring meetings you’re evaluating, do this math:
– Calculate the total annual compensation of the people in the room (best estimate).
– Divide by 250 (days in a year).
– Divide by 8 (work hours).
That’s the meeting cost. Example:
– 10 participants in a monthly 2 hour staff meeting is 10 x $150,000 (fully-loaded comp estimate) = $1,500,000 / 250 / 8 * 2 hours * 12 months = $18,000 per year to hold that staff meeting. Now the scary number – multiply that by 10 because people should generate 10x their annual salary in positive financial impact through the work they do. That’s a $180k staff meeting. Now ask if that meeting is worth $180k per year. I’ll bet a few meetings die during this step.
Determine the Purpose
Have you ever stopped and asked “why do we have this meeting every week/month?” Usually the answer is “we’ve always had this meeting.” Wrong.
Ask what the expected outcome and benefit of the meeting is/should be. If it’s not clear, either invest the time to redefine the expected outcome or kill the meeting. If you don’t know what the objective of the meeting is and what the value you’re supposed to generate will be, how can you justify the meeting’s existence?
Determine the Alternatives
Even meetings you’re looking to kill have some shred of value. But ask with a critical eye if there’s a better way to accomplish the same objectives. Can the information be shared more efficiently via a report or email? Can the meeting be shortened? Can participants be trimmed and invited only “as needed?”
If there’s a more efficient alternative you need to seriously consider adopting it.
Murder a Meeting
If you make it through the above steps and determine the meeting must die, kill it and kill it fast. Communicate the decision broadly to the team and affected stakeholders. Let them know you went through a deliberate decision making process to arrive at the conclusion. Not only does this provide transparency into the decision, it helps set an example and expectation with your team that they too can consider taking similar actions with their recurring meetings.
Aren’t we all a little too busy to spend half our time in a conference room meeting on a topic no one cares about to fulfill an objective no one can explain? Go kill a meeting today.