The corporate world loves meetings. “I’m already double-booked at that time, but go ahead and forward me that meeting invite.” Who hasn’t heard someone say something similar?
Meetings are a mainstay in how businesses run. Everyone complains about them, yet everyone attends them. What could be a punch line is an indication of broken decision making that is costing your company millions of dollars.
A peer of mine did an analysis of the amount of time spent each quarter by the supply chain and operations organisations to prepare for operational reviews at a $60 billion company. The figure is staggering: 112,000 hours per quarter.
After I collected myself, I did a quick poll of a few other peers at similar-size companies and found very similar results. Even a conservative assessment shows a massive impact.
Estimating an average fully loaded cost per employee of $110,000 means that these companies are spending $5.8 million per quarter to have employees in ops review meetings. This figure doesn’t include the host of other meetings employees attend throughout the quarter.
So, now what? Certainly, all meetings are not a waste of time – not even a majority. We need forums to discuss and make decisions as a group, but we can also be much more efficient.
In preparation for the upcoming SCM World event Fast Forward Supply Chain Capability, I have been interviewing companies on what makes an effective offsite meeting. And, while this is just one type of meeting, the results do provide some guidance on simple tips to make your daily meetings more effective.
Here are the top three pieces of feedback:
- Set and state a purpose. Do this for every meeting, even recurring meetings. A purpose lets people know why they are in the room, as well as setting a destination As someone who has worked in large corporations, I can empathise with any of you who thought a one-hour meeting was done 20 minutes in, and then sat by idly while random conversations dragged on for another 40 minutes. And as someone who now works at a fast-paced, rapidly growing small company, I can tell you that it is possible to finish a one-hour meeting in 20 minutes. When you reach the destination, end the meeting and release everyone for some much-needed personal time.
- Provide a structure. While this one is extremely relevant for offsite meetings – it was the top improvement opportunity in our survey – it is extremely relevant for standard meetings as well. State upfront if you are expecting open dialogue and brainstorming, if there will be slides, if certain people are expected to provide thoughts and if you have thoughts on a natural flow for the conversation.
- Send an agenda before the meeting. I am a chronic offender of this rule. I almost never do it. I’ll get better, I promise. And here’s why. If you are familiar with Myers-Briggs, you’ll know that those who identify as introverted thinkers like to prepare thoughts in a systematic fashion. They prefer prep time to think about the problems strategically, as well as getting order in the thoughts they prepare. Extroverted thinkers – like myself – are comfortable arriving and just jumping into debate. We are also known to hijack meetings and lead people in hundreds of directions. If you don’t support the introverts, you are not only ignoring half of the preferred thinking styles, but you are also at risk of excluding some of the best ideas.
On the topic of offsite meetings specifically, our poll of 50 business executives provides insight on how to improve these specialty meeting forums. The top suggestions on improvement are listed in the figure below.
My biggest takeaway from the offsite meeting research is that people really do benefit from them: 84% say they are useful. Open-response feedback showed that people want to have a mix of work and play. And the top piece of low-hanging fruit to improve? Pick a location with a lot of windows. It seems simple enough.
Although I say this a bit tongue in cheek, I really do mean it. When it comes to meetings, be the change you want to see in others.
Would love to hear from you at [email protected] or @psumattdavis.