Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 14, Issue 20;   May 14, 2014: The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: II

The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: II

by

Few of us realize where all the costs of meetings really are. Some of the most significant cost sources are outside the meeting room. Here's Part II of our exploration of meeting costs.
The George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson River between Manhattan and Fort Lee, New Jersey

The George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson River between Manhattan and Fort Lee, New Jersey. The view is from the New York side, looking slightly upstream. Note the suspension cables as they enter the anchor on the New York side. The Palisades provides anchoring on the New Jersey side. When we think of this suspension bridge, or suspension bridges generally, we're less aware of the anchoring than we are of the span. That is somewhat ironic, because the two towers of this bridge contain just over 43,000 tons of steelwork, whereas the New York anchor alone contains over 260,000 tons of masonry. In almost every sense that matters, the anchors of a suspension bridge are where the action is. Without them, all else fails.

So it is with meetings. Many of the elements that make a meeting work happen outside the meeting itself. Many of the elements that drive meeting costs, likewise, happen outside the meeting itself. More about the George Washington Bridge. Photo from the U.S. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Last time, we examined some foundational costs of meetings — invitations, the facility, and transport to and from. Let's now examine preparation activities. They aren't free, and some aren't cheap.

Rescheduling
When we reschedule meetings not yet held, we might poll the attendees, who must then respond to the poll. Some might have to reschedule commitments of their own to attend the newly rescheduled meeting. A cascade of little tasks can form, and since it potentially affects all attendees, its cost can be significant, though we rarely measure it or even estimate it.
Publishing minutes and podcasts
At first, one might think that there's a significant cost for reading minutes, because everyone has to do it. But hardly anybody reads minutes. On the other hand, someone does take minutes, writes them up, and posts them. And if there's a podcast, someone has to do that. Because scribing is usually a one-person job, we think of it as low-cost. But we lose access to this person's contributions during the meeting, because it's difficult to take minutes and participate fully. That lost access can have expensive consequences.
Preparing the agenda
You can save time on preparing agendas by not having them, but the cost is enormous, because meetings take longer and accomplish less — much of it wrong. So you have to do an agenda, but you can save time by not asking anyone for contributions. Nah, that doesn't work so well either, because meeting participants together compile agendas better than any one person can alone. So you end up having to poll people for contributions, and whenever you need to involve everyone in anything, costs climb. The costs in this case are worth it. They're just not zero. Really not zero.
Preparing introductions
Some meetings begin with rounds of introductions. Some skip the introductions, but instead circulate bios of attendees. Both approaches take time. For oral intros, attendees must plan what they'll say. Rescheduling a meeting triggers a
cascade of little tasks, whose
total cost can be significant
For written bios, attendees must write them, and someone has to compile them or provide a place where they can be posted. For recorded intros, attendees must plan, write, and deliver them. Some will even rehearse. It all takes time, and since everyone gets involved, the time taken can be significant.
Distributing materials
If materials accompany the meeting, the time to prepare them is usually accounted for. But the time to assemble them into distribution packages and get them delivered might not be. Such efforts usually get allocated to a bulk account that covers many different groups, if they are accounted for at all. The more often you meet, the more of these tasks you have. Find a way to meet less often.

Are you getting the idea that meetings cost more than you thought? I hope so. More next time. First in this series | Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: III  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenUbuVLjkNPtePsdKbner@ChacPpUBMlzEKqKPxNMDoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Effective Meetings:

Glow of lava reflected in steam plume east of Kupapa'u Point, on the Big Island of HawaiiWhen Meetings Boil Over
At any time, without warning, you can find yourself in a meeting that boils over. Sometimes tempers rise, then voices rise, and then people yell and scream. What can a team do when meetings threaten to boil over — and when they do?
The worldDispersity Adversity
Geographically and culturally dispersed project teams are increasingly common, as we become more travel-averse and more bedazzled by communication technology. But people really do work better together face-to-face. Here are some tips for managing dispersed teams.
Thumb upDecisions, Decisions: I
Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions? How do we choose the right process for the job?
A virtual meeting of a particular fancy typeThe End-to-End Cost of Meetings: I
By now, most of us realize how expensive meetings are. Um, well, maybe not. Here's a look at some of the most-often overlooked costs of meetings.
A highway sign on the way to AbileneVirtual Trips to Abilene
One dysfunction of face-to-face meetings is the Trip to Abilene, which leads groups to make decisions no members actually support. It can afflict virtual meetings, too, even more easily.

See also Effective Meetings and Workplace Politics for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Artist's depiction of a dust storm on Mars with lightningComing July 5: Tackling Hard Problems: II
In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end. Available here and by RSS on July 5.
Masonry archesAnd on July 12: Performance Issues for Non-Supervisors
If, in part of your job, you're a non-supervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for non-supervisors. Available here and by RSS on July 12.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenOGgYZtxDOXdnpOTTner@ChacuTHVbxlxfSEcGnBMoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program. Here are some upcoming dates for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.