The $5,000 Meeting: Changing Habits to Reduce Waste

Later this week I’ll be starting to deliver a series of Executive Briefings under the title of “I Hate Hiring”. The market for some talent is so tight that one of my suggestions is to consider whether it’s feasible to hire at all, and what you can do to re-think your operations and where you spend your time.

This had me recalling one of my least favorite corporate activities from big company life: the meeting. But not just any meeting, the $5,000 meeting. Now admittedly, I’m not a fan of meetings and committees. I know they have their purpose. For some that’s completing an agenda, helping with key decisions, reaching agreement or even building community. But this gathering had none of those elements – to the tune of $5000 for each attempt.

It started out as one of those “stretching” opportunities – where Sr. leaders were temporarily reassigned to other roles, and those of us on the front lines were asked to cover some of their responsibilities.

I had found myself covering a Regional leadership meeting that was occurring every 2 weeks early in the morning. The purpose of the group was serious – re-organizing several key functions that would likely lead to shutting down some operations, moving them to other sites and laying off Staff.

Culture and Habit – Hard to Overcome

I’d been there before, was mentally ready for the inevitable clash, but not the lack of one. Because it turned out that the most potent leadership defense in the re-organization arsenal was to simply not engage – show up, call in or follow through on certain requests.
It was after the third meeting that I quietly began asking the host if I was understanding the purpose of the gathering correctly, the lack of attendance by key leaders and the whoosh of deadlines as they passed us by without completion. Being a greater realist than myself, it was explained that though the culture surprised him as well as a relative newcomer, his job was to do whatever he could, however small, to move the ball down the field in these key areas.

Conflict in this organization, equated with bad manners, and a missed deadline would naturally be met with nods of understanding, because who hadn’t had one of those weeks? Most importantly, my organization had “a seat at the table” which was deemed of higher priority than questioning the effectiveness of the gathering.

How Do You Handle Meetings?

We all get into habits of work and doing business with meetings being one of the easiest trap of uselessness for any of us.

So, if you’re and wanting to re-capture a little bit of operational focus, put the “meeting” in your crosshairs and ask yourself:

  • How much in labor per hour is sitting in the room?
  • What other opportunities could those same people be working on?
  • Do you even have an agenda, basic notes and purpose for gathering?
  • Could you accomplish the same goals with fewer people?
  • Are the right people in the room? What are you trying to accomplish – big questions about the future of the business or operational items about completing existing work?

The Curious Rebel

Ultimately, the situation just didn’t make sense and given my role, I was able to calculate the labor costs of each of those attendees per meeting. It turned out to be ~$5,000. In a time of potential cutbacks and consolidation, we were gathering as a community with regularity, to sort of discuss big issues, but not really needing to commit to our commitments.

While I don’t expect most of you to find $5,000 hidden in wasted meetings, most organizations with some exploration can find better ways to apply the precious resource of their employees and leadership. While meeting regularly isn’t bad or inherently wrong, going through the motions like you always have, is a hard habit to break – but one that should be broken regularly.

By |2017-08-06T22:39:13+00:00August 30th, 2017|Hot topics for 2017, HR 101|0 Comments

About the Author:

Tom Engel
Tom Engel has over 20 years of customer-facing, professional experience, in the areas of IT, human resources and marketing – with companies as diverse as Sage, Intel and Providence Health & Services. Tom works with a wide range of industries to include automotive, professional services, healthcare and transportation.

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