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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Too many meetings: Calculate total spent of people in the meeting and highlight ..

It's a tricky situation. Your boss or other senior managers like to have a number of meetings on all issues and this gives you less time do your job. But how do you get them to change this strategy. We had a situation similar to this one where the boss was trying to have a number of meetings on different topics, and it was getting uncomfortable. On the other hand, there was also the oft stated position by many members of the team that they did not know about what was happening with regard to company strategy, and felt detached from the policies and steps being taken by the company, and this was expressed in internal surveys carried out by the company.
So, meetings can happen on many basis:
- When there is a chance in strategy, meetings would be held to explain what has happened and invite people to ask questions
- When there are senior management officials wanting to meet the team, there would be meetings to showcase strategy and status, and a lot of preparations to fine-tune
- Frequent meetings to walk through ongoing matters, including when the boss has ideas that he is looking to sound off from his direct managers or from the extended team
- Meetings where the boss is traveling to other geographic locations of the company and wants to talk about strategy before doing this traveling
- Meetings where the boss has been talking to senior management and wants to share feedback from such meetings, even when the meetings are of an interim nature
- And so on ...

Now, if you look at the set of meetings above, there are many that would seem correct and fine, and part of sharing ideas and strategy in the organization down the line. And this is what the boss would feel, that all these meetings were necessary and to ensure that people felt connected with what the group and the organization was doing. However, there is a fine line where the meetings go beyond what was necessary and start moving into the arena of time wasting. This is true in a number of organizations, although the scale of the time being wasted can differ. The problem with a situation like this is that this spoils the mood for all meetings, where even genuine meetings seem like a wastage of time, connected to the other meetings which are a genuine waste of time. And since these meetings are held by the manager or by senior managers, it is frustrating that one cannot stop such meetings.
There was one approach that was discovered about how to stop such meetings, or atleast ensure that there was a realization that such meetings are causing problems with the team and reducing the amount of time that can spent in more genuine work. There was an excellent article in a publication that talked about the amount of time that was spent in meetings, and suggested that for every meeting, there would be a clock that measures the amount of time spent, and then does a summary of time spent in such meetings, and time spent for each such person. Given that the article was suggesting that this would lead to a rise in productivity, we managed to ensure that another senior manager circulated this article, and we started following this principle. It was not good for us to not be able to raise this issue directly, but once we started measuring the amount of time spent in such meetings and showing the results on a monthly basis, we could see that there was a prioritization of such meetings, and things got better to some extent.

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