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 latemeeting 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.
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- Problem Defining and Problem Solving
- Sometimes problem-solving sessions are difficult because we get started solving a problem before we
know what problem we're solving. Understanding the connection between stakeholders, problem solving,
and problem defining can reduce conflict and produce better solutions.
- The Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Content
- A team member proposes a solution to the latest show-stopping near-disaster. After extended discussion,
the team decides whether or not to pursue the idea. It's a costly approach, because too often it leads
us to reject unnecessarily some perfectly sound proposals, and to accept others we shouldn't have.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: II
- Assertiveness by chairs of meetings isn't a problem in itself, but it becomes problematic when the chair's
dominance deprives the meeting of contributions from some of its members. Here's Part II of our exploration
of the problem of bully chairs.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: III
- When the chair of the meeting is so dominant that attendees withhold comments or slant contributions
to please the chair, meeting output is at risk of corruption. Because chairs usually can retaliate against
attendees who aren't "cooperative," this problem is difficult to address. Here's Part III
of our exploration of the problem of bully chairs.
- The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: II
- 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.
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