An anonymous blogger writing in the bi-monthly magazine of regional Chamber Sussex Enterprise rails against the curse of the modern age – the meeting.
Business Edge’s 'Steam Room' column allows anonymous writers to let off steam about a pet dislike. In the last issue someone let rip at a culture where people’s productivity is measured by the number of meetings in their diaries with scant regard for whether they are justifiable or worthwhile.
The author cites a number of scenarios that will be familiar to anyone who spends a fair chunk of their lives sitting round a table either clacking or listening to it. Some people, of course, take exception to not being invited to a meeting especially if a rival or a minion has received the summons in their stead. An invitation takes on the role of badge of seniority.
Apart from the fact that he/she found many meetings unproductive [and that is largely down to the chair to make sure they aren’t] the writer was incensed that the last item on an agenda was usually the date of the next meeting which allows meetings to take on a life of their own regardless of whether they are achieving anything. Of course, because there are so many meetings it is often a necessity to get something in the diary of busy people well in advance. But this often leads to the situation worthy of “Yes Minister” where those tasked to circulate the agenda frantically search for something to put on it, often a day or two before the meeting date.
With great perspicacity the author also bemoans meetings that are dominated by “the verbal not the insightful, by the self-important not the diligent”. Too often, it is suggested, the people that sit in the meetings are divorced by some distance from those that will actually do the work. He/she then goes on to suggest a way to evaluate the true cost of meetings by allocating an indicative chargeable day rate for each participant based on their salary plus on costs. Starting with their salary divided by 220 [the number of working days in a year] and adding on say 20% for non-productive time.
Using this calculator a half day meeting with 10 people on an average salary of £40,000 would cost about £1,300 not including any venue costs or travel time to get to the meeting or time spent reading the papers [assuming there are any!]. If these are taken into account the meeting could end up costing twice this amount.
The total cost could then be included with the minutes so that people know the monetary value of the meeting and this could be viewed against the actions agreed [if any] and revisited in six months to see whether the actions had been completed and resulted in any outcomes. If not the meeting could be declared a complete waste of money which might focus the minds of those involved.
All-in-all a very interesting article. It can be read on page 19 of the August/September edition
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