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:
- Divisive Debates and Virulent Victories
- When groups decide divisive issues, harmful effects can linger for weeks, months, or forever. Although
those who prevail might be ready to "move on," others might feel so alienated that they experience
even daily routine as fresh insult and disparagement. How a group handles divisive issues can determine
- The Fallacy of Composition
- Rhetorical fallacies are errors of reasoning that introduce flaws in the logic of arguments. Used either
intentionally or by accident, they often lead us to mistaken conclusions. The Fallacy of Composition
is one of the more subtle fallacies, which makes it especially dangerous.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: I
- Most meetings have chairs or "leads." Although the expression that the chair "owns"
the meeting is usually innocent shorthand, some chairs actually believe that they own the meeting. This
view is almost entirely destructive. What are the consequences of this attitude, and what can we do about it?
- 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.
- How to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings
- Nearly everyone hates meetings, and virtual meetings are at the top of most people's lists. Here's a
catalog of some of the worst practices.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
- When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
- And on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
- We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.
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