Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Meetings Kill Productivity

 Every minute you spend in a meeting you can spend it doing something productive. Before I get into the specifics of meetings, it’s important to note that leadership styles and prevalent corporate culture plays an important role. Employees and managers go through phases in their level of productivity throughout the day (see Circadian Rhythm) therefore their times need to be utilized efficiently.  A variation of Parkinson’s Law applied to meetings goes something like this: “Meeting activities expand to fill the time available.” Ergo, more time, more activities. If you set an hour for the meeting, people will use the hour, regardless of how much is on the agenda.
Business meetings require people to commit, focus and make decisions, with little or no attention paid to the depletion of the finite cognitive resources of the participants--particularly if the meetings are long. So if that is true, the three or four hour project meetings may be counterproductive. In my experience the meetings were a way to give the owner the due attention, it rarely had any significance. Another experience where as a part of the marketing department I was asked to conduct daily progress meetings in an organization where people worked in shift, which meant some, had to come in early while others had to stay late. These are practices from former Managing Director of a top pharmaceutical company.
More time should be spent in communicating roles, responsibilities and KPI’s so that an employee is given direction and does not need to be micromanaged. Meetings should be held for absolutely important reasons with a fixed agenda and with a limited amount of people.
An excerpt from
Recently, my colleagues and I heard a story about a U.S. undersecretary of defense who was managing procurement. She came to her first meeting with contractors and saw some 60 people in the room. So she said, “Let’s first create a big circle. We’ll go around the room, and everyone can say who they are and why they’re here.” Participants rolled their eyes  — did they really have to do something this gimmicky? —
After the first two had identified themselves, the undersecretary said, “Thanks for your interest, but we won’t need you here. You can excuse yourself.” Others met a similar fate. By the time she got to the 10th person in the circle, people all over the room were getting up to leave, knowing they had no real reason to be there. Eventually the group got down to around 12 members — and the human capital productivity of that meeting rose about fivefold.