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

Last updated: August 8, 2018

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 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!

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:

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When we need to brainstorm, meeting virtually carries a risk that our results might be problematic. Here's Part I of some steps to take to reduce the risk.

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

## Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Coming September 25: Planning Disappointments
When we plan projects, we make estimates of total costs and expected delivery dates. Often these estimates are so wrong — in the wrong direction — that we might as well be planning disappointments. Why is this? Available here and by RSS on September 25.
And on October 2: Start Anywhere
Group problem-solving sessions sometimes focus on where to begin, even when what we know about the problem is insufficient for making such decisions. In some cases, preliminary exploration of almost any aspect of the problem can be more helpful than debating what to explore. Available here and by RSS on October 2.

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