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Fun May Not Be Enough To Solve Long Meetings

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Office meetings aren’t always the highlight in our day—particularly when the outcome proves to be only the illusion of productivity. So, is there an antidote to this dreaded, wasteful time?

Some business owners and employees have found that the inclusion of water guns, games, and role reversals are just what the doctor ordered. But Ann Latham, president and founder of Uncommon Clarity, cautions against this prescription:

Making them ‘fun’ does not make them productive or do anything about the work being neglected or accumulating during the meeting. If you want to make people hate meetings less, make the meetings productive. If you only add ‘fun,’ people will likely just view it as more wasted time.

Yes it’s true: making meetings productive will surely make them easier to attend. But that’s besides the point. This declaration seems just as easy a remedy as consuming the supposed worker productivity shortcut of a “magic drink.” Yet, actually figuring out how to accomplish it is far from simple. After all, if attaining productivity in a meeting was so easy, wouldn’t everyone feel satisfied and on track at the end of the time spent together? In AccelaWork’s view, half the problem with long, drawn-out business meetings is a company’s inability to define their own, unique standards of productivity.

employee productivity during meetings

© Flickr user David Boyle

A Fast Company article tackled this same theme.

Time is money. Track the cost of your meetings and use computer- enabled simultaneity to make them more productive.

Almost every guru invokes the same rule: meetings should last no longer than 90 minutes. When’s the last time your company held to that rule?

One reason meetings drag on is that people don’t appreciate how expensive they are. James B. Rieley, director of the Center for Continuous Quality Improvement at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, recently decided to change all that. He did a survey of the college’s 130-person management council to find out how much time its members spent in meetings. When he multiplied their time by their salaries, he determined that the college was spending $3 million per year on management-council meetings alone. Money talks: after Rieley’s study came out, the college trained 40 people as facilitators to keep meetings on track. Bernard DeKoven, founder of the Institute for Better Meetings in Palo Alto, California, has gone Rieley one step better. He’s developed software called the Meeting Meter that allows any team or department to calculate, on a running basis, how much their meetings cost. After someone inputs the names and salaries of meeting participants, the program starts ticking. Think of it as a national debt clock for meetings.

DeKoven emphasizes that he created the Meeting Meter as a conversation piece rather than as a serious management tool. It’s a visible way to put meeting productivity on the agenda. “When I use the meter, I don’t just talk about the cost of meetings,” he says, “I talk about the cost of bad meetings. Because bad meetings lead to even more meetings, and over time the costs become awe-inspiring.”

As DeKoven tackles at the end, there isn’t necessarily a big cost of meetings, but rather a big waste of money that happens at bad meetings.

Before solutions can be integrated, companies need to answer three questions. First, what does productivity even mean to them? Second, what elements need to be met in order to achieve productivity? Third, what awaits the company once productivity is reached? Without answering these three questions, reducing the amount of time stakeholders spend on “wasting time” will continue.

There is no doubt, discovering the right path in workflow is an intricate process. So, empower employees to contemplate how to work smarter. Encourage them to contribute their ideas by answering the questions above.  By involving everyone, the mission for productivity not only becomes a group endeavor, but creates a realistic and tangible vision for success.

If your company wants to increase productivity but needs help defining its standards, contact our Indianapolis consultants today! We will assist in sharpening and developing your ideas on everyday work.

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