This should be written on the door and emblazoned on the seats of every chair in the meeting room. Every seven minutes a voice should pipe up from the corner of the room, reminding the participants of this tenet.
In your average organisation, only certain people can order a new pencil; a procedure has to be followed, a protocol has to be observed. Paperwork has to be filled out and sometimes justification has to be provided (“What happened to the pencil we gave you just last week?”), all for a 10 cent pencil.
However, in many organisations many different people are allowed to call a meeting, often without any real authorisation.
My chairman once told me that every consulting seat in the company cost $618 per day. That was how much it cost to have me sit there with a computer in front of me, a roof over my head, a salary in my bank account, a letter brought to my desk, a cup of tea delivered on a trolley twice a day, and more of course.
That was the minimum amount of money I needed to earn the company every single day, in order for me to come in to work the next. These words weren’t delivered harshly but still brought a certain focus to the importance of each work day.
Meetings are costly. People generally know this.
Many people within an organisation understand that meetings cost money in terms of people’s time. However, in general there is little comprehension as to the true cost of:-
a. The total cost. People usually only consider the salary cost of a person. Try asking the management accountant of a company how much an operations person actually costs.
b. The interruption that a meeting costs. For example, a programmer who is four levels deep in a programming cycle and ‘in the zone’ but is then disrupted for a meeting – this might cost many more hours of effort to come back to the same position. Or a salesperson, who because of a meeting is unable to make an important call at a suitable time and risks forfeiting a major deal.
Accountants may refer to this as an opportunity cost.
Calling a meeting should be like the old adage Holding onto a Hot Potato. There must be responsibility on the part of the meeting ‘caller’ for the success of the meeting, especially when understanding the true cost of a meeting. How we define a meeting’s success is dependent upon the circumstances and reasons for the meeting.
Getting everyone in the office together to announce the passing of the cleaning lady – while tragic – has different dependencies and measures of success than that of a meeting to decide on whether to replace the company’s existing fleet vehicles.
There is a unifying theme to each and every meeting. Every meeting must have:-
1. a desired outcome
2. an understanding of that outcome
3. the outcome should be communicated to all attendees
Time is Money and Meetings Cost Time