The Expense of Ineffective Meetings

By: Jeffrey Scott Klubeck, M.A.

Word Count: 760 words
Time to Read: 1-2 minutes

There’s a saying I’ve heard: “If you want to kill time, a MEETING is the perfect weapon!” We ALL attend meetings…many of us conduct them…and we have ALL had the experience/feeling of our time being “wasted” due to bad meetings. Hopefully, you have also had the opposite experience of carefully prepared, fully executed and completely motivating or productive meetings too. But let’s face it, which is MOST common? The bad ones! So why are most meetings bad and too many meetings REALLY bad?

Well, just nod your head if you’ve experienced meetings that: start late, run long, go off topic, fail at being “productive”, have either NO agenda or a very poorly prepared agenda…even worse if the agenda is not distributed ahead of time…so you have no idea what the meeting is about or how to feel prepared for the meeting. I’m talking about the meetings that have no method of effectively controlling egos, interpersonal conflict or the balance needed between social and task-oriented dialogues. I am talking about meetings that have no structure that encourages productivity…where the wrong people are at the meeting…and the critical people are absent! My absolute favorite is the meeting that is needed to be scheduled because the meeting we are currently IN has gotten us nowhere. Ever experience any of that?

Well, what are the harms to our productivity in the workplace that result from these bad meetings? Consider this: Most professionals who meet on a regular basis admit to daydreaming (91%), missing meetings (96%) or missing parts of meetings (95%). Furthermore, a large percentage (73%) say they have brought other work to meetings and 39% say they have dozed during meetings. Patrick Lencioni, author of Death by Meeting, says that bad meetings not only exact a toll on the attendees as they suffer through them, but also cause real human anguish in the form of anger, lethargy, cynicism, and even in the form of lower self-esteem.

Furthermore, consider these numbers:

  • Professionals lose 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings (roughly four work days)
  • Approximately 11 million meetings occur in the U.S. each and every day.
  • Most professionals attend a total of 61.8 meetings per month and…
  • Research indicates that over 50 percent of this meeting time is wasted.
Essentially, meetings are longer, less efficient and generate fewer results. More meetings are needed to accomplish objectives and with so much time spent in ineffective meetings, employees have less time to get their own work done. Ultimately inefficient meetings cost organizations billions of dollars each year in otherwise productive employee work time!

So, why does the problem exist? Usually it’s lack of preparation! There is a direct correlation between preparation time and meeting productivity, specifically in the area of preparing materials and the agenda. See the chart below and notice the dramatic increases in productivity after the 28th minute of preparation!!!


Source: A network MCI Conferencing White Paper. Meetings in America: A study of trends, costs and attitudes toward business travel, teleconferencing, and their impact on productivity (Greenwich, CT: INFOCOMM, 1998).

Attitudinal barriers to solving the meeting problem include the fact that most individuals have never experienced or witnessed the power of a truly effective meeting and, therefore, don't recognize the importance of having better meetings. Also, it may seem more "convenient" to continue current meeting practices, regardless of how inefficient they may be. Many teams feel they don't have access to the kind of effective meeting information they need to improve their meetings or the “permission” to implement best practices. Most employees feel there's hardly enough time in a day to complete basic tasks so “Who has the time or energy to commit to improving meetings?” Managers, accountants or agents of accountability, in general, fail to consider the negative impact meetings have on the organization's bottom line noted above.

Does any of this sound familiar? What would it take for you to know if bad meetings are affecting your productivity or bottom line? And, if they in fact WERE, how soon would you want to know about and fix it?

Wolf Management Consultants offer Assessments, Training and Coaching Modules that can turn your meetings from the perfect weapon for killing time into effective “Weapons of Mass Production”. If you want a customized solution that will recover countless hours of wasted “bad meeting” time resulting in happier workers and greater workplace productivity, then consider contacting us for a free “Effective Meeting Questionnaire” that can uncover critical blind spots in your meeting practices!

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