Let me say up front that this post does not address the age-old quandary: “To meet or not to meet, that is the question.”
Moving from Hamlet to Ford trucks, the company meeting is “built to last.”
To resist is futile.
Still, there is one simple action that would advance civilization in its quest to collaborate:
Start the Bloody Meeting on Time!
The anecdotal evidence suggests that over 50 percent of company meetings do not start on time. Many would argue that the number is far too conservative.
There’s no question in my mind that Silicon Valley puts that number to shame. If someone took the time to research meetings in Silicon Valley — perhaps a Stanford Ph.D. candidate in anthropology who’s not big on digging in the desert — I’m sure the data would show a good 80 percent of meetings in Silicon Valley start late.
Consider the negative impact. Let’s be conservative and say that a company of 100 employees averages 1,200 meetings in a given month. Now, if a mere half of those meetings start 10 minutes late, the company ends up wasting over 100 man hours hours each month.
Zeroing in on Silicon Valley, what happens when you email people for what we’ll call a mission-critical meeting? Everyone’s schedule is already so booked you’re lucky if the meeting can happen a week out. Plus, I bet a good 80 percent of meetings in Silicon Valley start late. For that same 100-person company in Silicon Valley, the amount of lost time is probably closer to 500 man hours in a given month.
And this doesn’t account for the cranky attitude that the people who were on time have when the meeting does finally commence. Nothing like a vibe of hostility to start a meeting on a positive note.
Scientific American published a story last year, “Why do we need to have so many meetings,” that scrutinized the corporate quest to collaborate:
“Today’s workplace stresses collaboration, but under the guise of collaboration meetings quickly become a spectator sport. Spectators are people who attend to be in the loop on the off chance that some miniscule piece of information may be shared that might influence some work that they wind up doing for the client or company down the road.”
There’s some truth to this point. We’ve all experienced meeting bloat.
Which brings us back to the simple solution to improve the productivity of a meeting.
Start on time.
Whoever is leading the charge should let participants know up front that the doors will close at the appointed time. It can be painful, even awkward in the early going, but over time it conditions people to arrive on time.
After all, It’s tough to be spectator when you’re outside the “stadium.”
Note: If you enjoyed this post, you might check out “I Know you hear me, but are you listening?”