So far in our exploration of meeting costs, we've examined setup costs and preparation costs — activities driven mostly by the meeting organizer, the scribe, or others with formal roles supporting or leading the meeting. Let's now look at how meeting participants spend time.
- Waiting for people who are late
- During the meeting, we sometimes delay the start until everyone, or at least some important folks, arrive. The cost, though, isn't just the time spent sitting around. The cost often appears in the form of lower quality output that results from rushing other parts of the meeting to make up the lost time, or from deferring some agenda items to the next meeting.
- Tolerating lateness is an expensive habit. If you often wait for late arrivals, schedule time for it and hold it in reserve until you need it. Making this time visible is a first step toward controlling it.
- Preparing reports
- In most meetings, some people deliver reports about some things. They must prepare what to say, perhaps making a short handout or presentation. If they have some not-so-good news, they prepare answers to questions. Some even spend time preparing what not to say, or how to spin their reports to seem less bad than they are.
- All this takes time. Ask for reports only when they're really needed.
- Preparing nasty political attacks and defenses against them
- Probably your organization's accounting system doesn't track time invested in nasty political attacks or preparing defenses against them. Time gets spent on these activities anyway. That time must be charged to something else.
- The more toxic the conflict among the meeting attendees, the more time and money is spent on this activity, even if the conflict is covert. Letting ongoing toxic conflict fester is expensive. Deal with it.
- Preparing presentations
- Some people are scheduled to present more formally, with a longer time slot — 20 minutes or more. They prepare slides and handouts, they rehearse, they gather auxiliary material, and so on.
- Too often, The more toxic the conflict
among the meeting attendees,
the more time and money is
spent on this activity, even if
the conflict is covertmuch of what's presented is unnecessary. Trim these presentations. Nobody ever changes their minds about anything after the first 20 minutes of a presentation. Ask for the express version.
- Reporting on action items
- During the meeting, when we assign action items, we record them for tracking purposes. Fine. But in subsequent meetings, we tend to ask for status too early or too often. Some do this to encourage progress.
- If you don't expect significant progress on a particular action item, don't ask for a status report. If you want to encourage progress, find a cheaper way — a private conversation, for example.
Do 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!
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- Recovering Time: I
- Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get
so little done? To recover time, limit the fragmentation of your day. Here are some tips for structuring
your working day in larger chunks.
- The Solving Lamp Is Lit
- We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving
before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
- Blind Agendas
- Effective meetings have agendas. But even if a meeting has an agenda, the hidden agendas of participants
can cause trouble. Another source of trouble, less frequently recognized, is the blind agenda.
- Why People Hijack Meetings
- When as chair of a meeting, you have difficulty completing a reasonable agenda, you might be the target
of a hijacking. Here's Part I of a series exploring meeting hijacking.
- Pre-Decision Discussions: Facts
- The purpose of some meetings is reaching decisions. Because decision making can be difficult, familiarity
with the forms of contributions that can occur in such discussions is helpful. Their connection to facts
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 30: Avoiding Speed Bumps: II
- Many of the difficulties we encounter when working together don't create long-term harm, but they do cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Here's Part II of a little catalog of tactics for avoiding speed bumps. Available here and by RSS on November 30.
- And on December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
- Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
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