Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 16, Issue 32;   August 10, 2016: Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: I

# Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: I

Your meetings start on time, but some people are habitually late. When they arrive, they ask, "What did I miss? Catch me up." This is an expensive way to do business. How expensive is it?

We all recognize the wastefulness of summarizing the first ten or fifteen minutes of a meeting for someone who arrives late, but we might not fully appreciate the scale of the waste. So let's start there. For a meeting of N people whose average fully loaded salary per year is S, taking M minutes to recap the part of the meeting the late arrival missed will cost N*S*M/(260 days/year * 8 hours/day * 60 minutes/hour) = 0.0000080128*N*S*M. The numbers in that formula come from the assumptions that there are 260 work days in a work year, and 8 hours (nominally) in a work day. So, for example, if S is, say, \$180K, and M is 2 minutes, and there are ten people in the meeting, then the cost of a two-minute recap for the late arrival is \$28.85 per incident. If, in a weekly team meeting, there is one recap incident per week, the cost per year is \$1,500.00.

Shocking, but that's just the beginning. The full cost of a two-minute recap for late arrivals, considering all cost sources, is difficult to compute precisely, but we can easily show how it can be ten or a thousand times higher.

Let's begin by examining how accommodating late arrivals affects the people who arrive on time.

Intentional time wasting
When some People who do arrive on
time can sometimes harbor
resentments of those who
habitually arrive late
meeting leads realize that there are habitual late arrivals, they tend to plan their agendas to avoid anything important in the first few minutes of their meetings. This is an popular tactic when the late arrivals have significant organizational power. The items addressed in these situations are often items that could have been handled in email or by some means other than meetings. What's the cost of this misspent meeting time?
Frustration and resentment
People who do arrive on time can sometimes harbor resentments of those who habitually arrive late. The on-timers might not express those resentments directly, particularly if the late arrivals outrank them. In some cases, the on-timers might not even be aware of their feelings of resentment. Nevertheless, resentments, expressed or not, can be obstacles to effective teamwork. What's the cost of disharmony?
Increase in frequency of late arrivals
When attendees who would not otherwise arrive late realize that there are some habitual late arrivals, they adopt a time saving strategy of their own: they also arrive late. The calculation is, "Why should I arrive on time when I know there will be a recap after the first ten minutes?" This is an especially tempting strategy for those who harbor resentment of the meeting lead's accommodation of habitual late arrivals. Habitual late arrivals thus tend to generate additional late arrivals among those who would otherwise arrive on time. Then we might need two recaps.

We'll turn our attention next time to the effect of late arrivals and their recap requests on the quality of meeting output.  Next in this series

Do you spendyour 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!

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.

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## Related articles

More articles on Effective Meetings:

When 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?
Trips to Abilene
When a group decides to take an action that nobody agrees with, but which no one is willing to question, we say that they're taking a trip to Abilene. Here are some tips for noticing and preventing trips to Abilene.
Rationalizing Creativity at Work: I
Much of the work of modern organizations requires creative thinking. But financial and schedule pressures can cause us to adopt processes that unexpectedly and paradoxically suppress creativity, thereby increasing costs and stretching schedules. What are the properties of effective approaches?
Naming Ideas
Participants in group discussions sometimes reference each other's contributions using the contributor's name. This risks offending the contributor or others who believe the idea is theirs. Naming ideas is less risky.
Polychronic Meetings
In very dynamic contexts, with multiple issues to address, we probably cannot rely on the usual format of single-threaded meeting with a list of agenda items to be addressed each in their turn. A more flexible, issue-driven format might work better.

See also Effective Meetings and Virtual and Global Teams for more related articles.

## Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Coming April 25: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VI
Narcissistic behavior at work distorts decisions, disrupts relationships, and generates toxic conflict. These consequences limit the ability of the organization to achieve its goals. In this part of our series we examine the effects of exploiting others for personal ends. Available here and by RSS on April 25.
And on May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.

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The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people 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.