Should You Do Away With Weekly Meetings?

Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss goes ballistic when challenged about the value of the day’s big meeting: “I called this meeting, and it’s not a meeting until someone’s time gets wasted!” That’s not far from the truth, though the motivation for meetings at most large companies is usually more benign.

A few years ago, a leading technology company saw its profitability and productivity declining. It surveyed 30,000 employees worldwide to determine how to improve organizational effectiveness. Employees responded that only 54 percent of the time spent in meetings was time well spent. They cited unclear meeting purpose, unnecessary standing meetings, overly long meetings and unnecessary attendees as reasons for unproductive meetings.

Too many people get together without really knowing why, simply because it was on their weekly schedules. Admit it, you’ve been there. You’ve probably called some of those meetings. I know I have.

What’s less obvious to people, however, is the ripple effect those unproductive meetings have on an organization, especially when top executives meet. My Bain colleague Michael Mankins and his team analyzed time use at one large company and found that people there spent 300,000 hours a year just supporting the weekly executive committee meeting. Using data-mining tools to analyze the Outlook schedules of everyone in the company, they found that the executive committee meeting required preparation and ancillary meetings by unit heads, senior advisers, teams … and more teams. You get the point. The meeting prep radiates outward like a forest fire consuming widening circles of employees.

But meetings don’t have to get the best of you. You can manage them as closely as you manage every investment. Here are three things you can do.

Read more: Bain


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