Heera Training & Management Consultants

eNewsletter July 2008

Dear Everyone,
Hi! And how are you all? As you will notice, the format of the newsletter has changed slightly. I have made it a little less formal. The objective is to rejuvenate the ‘product’. Otherwise, the highlight for June was going to Bintulu in Sarawak and meeting some very nice people over there. I would think that if I was not in this profession, the chances of me going to places like this would be minimal, and that is one of the great things I like about the job; going to far off places and meeting real nice people and yes, eating exotic food. 
This month, I want to talk about a perennial problem in organizations i.e. the problem of excessive meetings and how it has become in my personal opinion one of the most mismanaged management function in most organizations. 

The Ineffective Use of the Meeting Function

In a survey done by MCI, one of the leading telecommunications company in America, these were the following findings about meetings in Corporate America.

  1. Approximately 11 million meetings occur in the U.S. each day.
  2. Most professionals attend a total of 61.8 meetings per month and research indicates that over 50 percent of this meeting time is wasted. This comes to approximately four work days in a month.
  3. Most professionals who go to meetings on a regular basis admit to daydreaming (91%) and 39% say they have dozed off during meetings. 

I am most certain that the above would be true in most corporate organizations.

Reasons for Unproductive Meetings

a. Ritual Meetings

How many of us walk off to a meeting on Monday morning because we have to attend this ritualized ‘manager’s meeting’. Sometimes we do not even know what is going to be discussed and sometimes we do not even care. Worse still, there is nothing serious to discuss, but since everyone is around, trivial matters are discussed to justify the forum, to everybody’s frustration.

b. Weak Chairman

I have many a time been at meetings where the main objective is aimed at discussing the format of a new performance management system, but however ends up discussing the need for extra car parks for employees! More time is spent on this issue as lots of personal interests come into play then the latter subject. And all because of a weak chairman, who is not able to control the meeting.

c. Meeting culture

Anytime there is a problem in organizations, the easiest solution seems to be to ‘call for a meeting’. For example, when something goes wrong at the Marketing dept, the usual habit is to call for a meeting of all department heads. The HR manager then goes for the meeting, stays quiet for three hours i.e. the duration of the meeting and then leaves without having made any contribution as he lacks knowledge of the issue being discussed. 

Some Measures to Ensure Effective Meetings

a. Is a meeting necessary?

One of the first things we must do before calling a meeting is to ask whether ‘there is a need for a meeting in the first place.’ Can the matter be solved in another way? Can it be solved by just having a telephone discussion for example? Never call for a meeting instinctively!

b. Set a Time Limit and stick to it.

Time limits are important as it creates pressure on the chairman and the members of the meeting to have quality discussions. Many management gurus’ invoke the rule that meetings should last no longer than 90 minutes. 

c. Get only the right and necessary people

It is better to have a meeting with three people who can contribute rather than 20 people who are there for the sake of being there.

Bad meetings are probably one of the most pervasive yet underestimated problems in organizations. Lots of time, effort and importantly money is wasted every time there is a meeting. Importantly, it saps a lot of energy and lowers morale! 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I do hope I have added a little more to your management knowledge. Take care and have a great month ahead!!