Do you feel like you have meetings about what to have meetings about? During important meetings do you find yourself drifting away and daydreaming about the place you really wished you were at? You are not alone. According to effectivemeetings.com American professionals attend on average nearly 62 meetings per month and that 50% of the time spent in meetings is wasted. Bob at productivity hacks thinks that it is more like 90% and I am inclined to agree with him. Meetings for the most part are a huge waste of time and drain on resources and most of the time they accomplish absolutely nothing.
Years ago I worked for G.E. Capital and while it was a great company to work for and my memories of those years for the most part are positive ones, one thing that I noticed while working there was the never ending flow of meetings. With several hundred people on the floor of the call center it was not unusual for it to be a difficult thing to find a manager on the floor. Why? Because they were in meetings, sometimes all day. I have found that meetings rarely accomplish what you had hoped it would, and in my opinion it’s not unusual for a meeting accomplish nothing. Don’t get me wrong, meetings are a necessity in business, having a Monday morning staff meeting to discuss the weeks agenda is useful and comes in handy and morning sales meetings often motivate sales people to go out there and hustle and to bring in the sales. But most meetings are counterproductive, think about your last hour long meetings, you got there at 8, you talked to a couple of your coworkers about football for 10 minutes, the person holding the meeting was late, when they finally got there at 8:10, it took them around five minutes to get organized and the meeting finally started, and lo and behold someone brought something up completely off subject and the meeting went in a direction other than its purpose, the meeting ended at 9 and all in all about 15 minutes was spent actually discussing the actual topic of the meeting, so about 45 minutes of time was actually wasted.
Let’s do some basic math, as of 2010 G.E. had around 113,000 U.S. employees so let’s say only 15 minutes is wasted in three meetings a week (like that few meetings is possible) which is 45 minutes x 113,000 per week equaling 5,085,000 minutes. Now let’s say the average employee is making $40,000 a year which is around $19.23 an hour which means that a wasted 45 minutes a week is costing the company $14.42 a week per employee times 113,000 equals just over $1.6 million dollars a week, which is a staggering $84 million dollars per year.
Now that might be a dramatic example, but the point is a lot of resources are wasted in meetings, resources that could be put to good use elsewhere. I believe that managers belong on the floor, the field, or wherever their employees are, not stuck in a room discussing some policy that nobody really gives a damn about. Let managers manage, let policy makers make policy. You dig?