I have long been a massive advocate in my blog posts on organisations improving meeting effectiveness. We have provided many tips and techniques on how to run effective meetings with a range of blogs: 7 tips to ensure your meetings are effective, Meeting effectiveness, a project or organisations barometer of health, and How effective are your meetings?.
I was reflecting on meeting effectiveness in a recent course I was running on high performance in organisations and projects. One of the comments raised was whether people truly understood the cost of asking every Tom, Dick and Harry to meetings? Further to this, a course participant relayed to me a recent meeting experience on a project where he was working. He had 48 people in one meeting that went for two and a half hours that was extremely ineffective. I quickly calculated that with an average charge out rate of $150, this meeting cost this project $18,000! The question for me was whether the return from the meeting justified this enormous cost?
We went through a range of matters related to meetings and what we could do to increase the urgency associated with driving real outcomes and meaningful discussions. Given that time is one of the most important assets of any individual or leader, anything we can do to preserve this and minimise meetings that waste it should be something that we should focus on.
This discussion got me thinking post the workshop about meetings in a different manner i.e. the true cost of any meeting. We have recommended in previous blogs above that every meeting room needs a clock that helps ensure meetings start and finish on time. This handles the efficiency aspect of meetings to a degree. However, perhaps a way to extend the urgency would be to have an odometer similar to a car that racks up the true cost of every meeting, perhaps called a “costodometer”. To explain this further, I will detail my rationale behind it along with how it would work to have “costodometer” visible in every meeting:
- The costodometer would be preset with every person’s charge rate (true cost and charge out rate by working out the total cost of employment) factored in to it, or the ability to add new members with their charge rate;
- You would swipe your security card against the costodometer to register that you are attending the meeting or input it through an app;
- The meeting would start and so would the costodometer;
- The costodometer would literally be calculating minute by minute the cost of the meeting i.e. three people attending at charge out rates of $150, $180, $160 for an hour meeting would be $490;
- As people are talking and debating the costodometer clocks over, visible to everyone. This is particularly relevant for many of these meetings where waffle is the name of game with little regard for outcomes or action;
- Further, if consultants or service providers are also invited to meetings, you have the ability to add their actual bill rate cost to the costodometer app. Given that this is additional variable money added to a fixed cost of salaries and employment for a lot of organisations, this could also be tracked as whether inviting consultants and service providers judiciously to every meeting is adding enough value to offset the significant cost;
- The total meeting time per week, per month, per quarter and per year can be calculated. This is weighted against whether meetings have been effective and outcomes have been achieved in some form of return on investment analysis.
I think this one initiative could make a massive difference to meeting effectiveness. Perhaps even an app could be developed that could be shown on a tablet or iPad making it portable and visible. I think the app would pay for itself at even $15 in the first ten minutes of the first meeting it is used!
I decided to research if an app exists for this and found a basic app that can calculate this for you displayed on an iPad or tablet ticking over throughout the meeting, MyMeetingPro Cost App which you can read more about and download here.
We seriously need to tackle meeting effectiveness in an alternative manner to what we are going now. Meeting ineffectiveness comes up as one of the top issues on any review we do of any organisation or project we commence working with. The definition of insanity is doing something the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Let’s embrace an alternative approach and see if it can make a difference!