21 August 2005

Meetings Matter

Posted by Jameson Penn
While the amount of time spent in meetings is baffling (according to mcnellisco.com, executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings), consider that approximately 10 hours is spent preparing for every one of those hours. It would seem that improving the productivity of meetings should be top priority.

From Jerry McNellis:

Even worse than the statistics on meetings is the data about projects. There are many studies about the dismal rate of success for projects. One that I use a lot comes from the Standish Group which tracks information technology projects. There findings are that 23% of the projects were outright failures, 49% were over budget or didn’t meet the deliverables and 28% were deemed successes. 94% of all projects are restarted and average $2.22 spent for every dollar budgeted.

The results for all projects in general are probably pretty similar. And the question is "Why?" Why is the success rate for projects so low? And, why do meetings tend to be so ineffective? The real issue is an organization’s thinking system. Meetings and projects are simply a reflection of the ability of an organization to think collaboratively. We spend very little time improving this ability and almost no effort measuring it.

If the greatest benefit of meetings is the resulting collaborative thinking, then the objective should be to enhance the structure. This may seem counterintuitive, but many people have different communication styles. While extroverts may thrive under a loose discussion-based format, introverts will likely hunker down and not contribute to the collective.

Oftentimes, meetings are initiated to relay information that could better be dispensed in other ways, be it an email, memo, or in a report. However, many are caught up in having meetings for the sake of having meetings; admittedly, I experienced this more in the public sector than now. This leads to an important rule: always have a clear objective for a meeting before it is called. Non-purpose meetings waste time at best and sidetrack essential resources at worst.

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