As I write this I am siting in an airport lounge and thinking about how much work I have got done, simply because I have not been interrupted by meetings.
But let me start by saying there is nothing more powerful than people sharing ideas when done right, the problem is that most meetings are what I call ‘Public Reading Scenarios’. That is people aggregating in the same room so that someone will read to them, something they could read in their own time, or more often the case, is totally irrelevant and no meeting is needed.
So I started doing this weird exercise every time I happen to be in a meeting filled with people. What I do is this:
- I count the number of people on the meeting.
- I decide what I think the average salary in the room is.
- I work out the hourly rate of the average salary.
- Add this to the number of hours the meeting goes for
- Work out the cost of meeting in wages
Last week I was in a meeting with 22 people. I calculated the average salary as $150k per annum, which then translated into an hourly rate of $75. The meeting went for 5 hours. The cost of this meeting was then $8250. I don’t care how big or wealthy the companies involved are, this is a lot of money. What makes it more significant is that most meetings are pointless – as this one was.
This meeting in particular was what I call a ‘Public Reading Event’. There was now real exchange of ideas, debate or in depth discussion. Rather a few people stood in front of copy heavy power point slides and read it out to the people sitting around eating muffins and pretending to listen. A total waste of time and the $8250. This is before we add to the price the opportunity cost of real work that wasn’t done during the 5 hours, or the cost of the meeting ‘culture’ it creates. And we all know a strong ‘meeting culture’ results in a vortex of indecision and slow business practice.
No point raising the issue without proposing a solution. So here is mine.
We add a widget to every email / meeting / calendar organiser which does my calculation above and estimates the ‘Cost of the meeting’. So when the meeting request is sent through the organiser and the participants see the cost in time – which is the real cost. It would say something like – estimated cost of meeting $3000. If people have to travel it should calculate that cost as well. This will make people think twice before they send the meeting request. It will also make us think twice before we accept the request. We measure the cost of most things in a company, but for some reason we rarely measure the cost of employees time in ‘salary employee’ environments, which is ironic when they usually represent 20-50% of the cost of running most companies. The widget is a pretty simple idea that could be mashed into any calendar function. Maybe it’s an iPhone calendar app that someone ought build?
When a meeting does occur and we agree it is worth while and attend, there would be a pretty strong emphasis on the value that occurred during it. I’m certain that ‘Public Reading Events’ would be a rare experience indeed.
So the only question remaining is which nimble app startup firm is going to build this?