“Has anyone ever said, ‘I wish I could go to more meetings today’?”
~ Matt Mullenweg, Creator of WordPress
That quote says it all, doesn’t it? Economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell said “The least productive people are usually the ones who are in favor of holding meetings.” There are likely days in every organization when the reality of meeting madness feels true.
The actual impact on productivity because of meeting madness is staggering
Unplanned, disorganized and ill-managed meetings aren’t just annoying. They’re costly:
- A study via the University of Nebraska at Omaha suggested that unproductive meetings cost US businesses $37 billion dollars, in terms of lost salary, annually. (source)
- The average employee attends 62 meetings a month. If 50% of that meeting time is unproductive, which other studies have stated is a reasonable number, that equals to 31 hours a month of unproductive meeting time PER month PER employee! Think about that in terms of not just monetary value but in loss of overall productivity. (source)
- Ultimately, too many unproductive meetings can have a negative effect on employees: “When it comes to quality, meetings perceived as ineffective appear to have a large negative impact on how an employee feels at the end of the workday as well as on overall job satisfaction. In three different studies, the single most powerful factor in job satisfaction was how one feels about the effectiveness of the meetings he or she attends; negative feelings were exacerbated as the amount of time spent in meetings increased. Employees who attend a rash of bad meetings are stressed, dissatisfied with their jobs and more predisposed to leave. (source)
Laying aside all the valid comments and statistics on how meeting madness is unproductive and costly, meetings are a fact of life in business. Groups of people can’t function in a coordinated fashion without being on the same page about what they’re working on. Beating meeting madness should be the focus of anyone hosting or chairing a gathering of their team!
Key factors to breaking the cycle of meeting madness
- Be prepared — as the meeting chair, or an attendee, prepare for and come to the meeting ready to participate.
a. Create a focused, short agenda that results in deliverables, if that’s the point of the meeting;
b. Read the agenda;
c. Bring supporting documents or materials that you might need, and in general, be ready to act on the agenda.
- Invite the right people — meetings aren’t a popularity contest. Invite the people who need to be there, no more and no less. Unless the person’s roll is materially affected by what is being discussed at the meeting, they don’t need to be there.
- Keep the meeting flowing — the meeting needs to start on time, discussions need to be reigned it to stay in scope, tangents need to be tabled for another time, and the meeting needs to end on time. That requires a strong chair who will keep the flow of the meeting smooth.
- Follow up — a meeting that ends with no action items, no deliverables, no next steps was probably not worth having in the first place. If there is no result, whether it’s a job lot of ideas, a decision or a project conclusion, the meeting was a waste of time.
Employees and managers alike will all appreciate a succinct, well timed, appropriate meeting that leaves them feeling as though something was accomplished. Anything less is madness.