Why CEO’s are Focusing on Wasted Meeting Time?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

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Microsofts’ CEO Satya Nadella and Space X & Teslas’ CEO Elon Musk have recently voiced their frustration regarding wasted time in meetings in articles that have been reposted around the world regarding wasted time in meetings.

Intuitively, most people know that a lot of time and money are wasted in meetings so Nadella and Musk’s recent reference to meetings is not surprising.

What are the statistics regarding how much time is wasted in meetings? During the process of writing my recently released book Business Meetings That Work: 6 Steps to Increase Productivity”, I found it very hard to find exact and global statistics.

According to online research, $37 Million wasted is a statistic that seems to be quite common in online research for the US alone. In a Verizon Conferencing whitepaper prepared by Infocom there is excellent information about where this statistic comes from.

With or without exact statistics, wasting time in meetings is a fact that is very difficult to dispute. And yet, business is done with people and people need interaction (in person, on line and over the phone) so meetings are here to stay.

What can we do about making them more productive?

In my previous blog Are all Business Meetings Sales Meetings or Why is Sales a nasty word? I discussed the advantages of viewing business meetings as sales meetings and treating your attendees as customers – with the hope of making the meeting more relevant for them and bringing them value.

Before considering how you want to view and/or treat the meeting attendees – the first question is really – why meet at all?

It’s a simple and yet very difficult question. On a very personal note-- even though I fully appreciate the need to cut down on meetings, I still find myself frustrated at the depersonalization of ‘email-only’ contact with a vendor I am working with. There are times when picking up the phone for a quick phone meeting or sitting face-to-face will resolve issues much quicker. When working with clients around the world, I have often been in situations where we jumped on a plane for a 5 hour flight just to clarify an issue.

Today, when I suggest to STOP and rethink if the meeting you are planning is necessary – I take into consideration, among other things; the subject, the culture, the resources; and focus on the desired outcome. When the outcome is clear, I then suggest to Evaluate the best way to achieve it.

Outcome? I am using the word outcome in this post to include both the specific objective of the meeting, and the long term objective with the person/people you are meeting with (whom I will refer to as the customer(s).)

The specific objective refers to what it is you want to get out of the specific meeting. There are very few situations in business (and maybe in life) that all objectives are resolved at once. When deciding whether to have a meeting or not, the first question you should ask yourself is What do I want to achieve in this specific meeting and then – Is there any better way to achieve it?

I am not suggesting being over efficient. I love Peter Druker’s quote Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.