Meetings Are They Worth The Cost?

I read an article recently that stated that billions of dollars are wasted in unnecessary and inefficient meetings. This got me thinking, how true this was and what we could to make improvements.

I know you have all been sat in meetings that you felt added little or no value, where the time could have been spent much more effectively.

This question got even more lodged in my mind as I sat through an hour-long meeting with over 40 other participants.

At the end of the meeting, I asked myself did we get 40 person-hours worth of value from that meeting, to which my answer would have been no. That was the cost of that meeting, a full weeks worth of work for one person. If we’d have asked the other participants at the end whether we got a fair return on that investment I think many would have agreed with me.

For many things in business, and certainly within IT, something that cost much would have had to be cost justified.

How To Measure Measure Value

Maybe this is the approach we should take, as people if that value was achieved, and if not what could we do to improve it.

I suspect many people would suggest that any meeting with 40 people cannot add much value. Yet yesterday I attended a similarly sized meeting and the benefits coming out of that meeting were significant. As part of a product review, we saved a lot of additional expenditure as the review showed that some of the contingency activities could be reduced in scope which would save significant cost and effort.

And even though some people didn’t add value, they got value that would help make them more efficient in the next stages of their work.

So just limiting the size of meeting isn’t always the right answer.

Within the AGILE methodology at the end of meetings, there is often an assessment of whether things went well, and what can be improved, and I would suggest extending that to all meetings.

Here are some suggestions for improvements.

To do this though we have to create a safe space where people feel comfortable to provide honest feedback. Otherwise, it will be an empty exercise.

Ask people whether they feel, collectively whether the meeting value exceeded the cost. And if not are there any suggestions on how it could be improved.

Ask people individually whether they felt they got value from the meeting, or felt whether the could or did add any value. And if the answer to these questions are no, then question whether they should be in the meeting.

I have often been invited to meeting, out of what felt like courtesy, but where in reality I either gave or got little value.

We should let people determine whether they need to be in a meeting. I would much prefer to have a team member working on something they felt was important rather than just attending a meeting to be present and no more. That’s an efficiency loss right there.

If you’re in a leadership position, and people don’t want to attend your meetings, then don’t get mad with them, start holding meetings that add more value.

We have all worked for bosses, and might even have been bosses, who liked to talk to a large group, but if it’s a low value meeting then you’re just undermining the value you and your team brings.

These were just some thoughts I wanted to share, given the cost, and given what seems to be an increase in the number of meetings everyone seems to be attending.