Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A roundtable, coffee, biscuits and needless discussions

I have been feeling for a while that meetings are a waste of time. It only provides you an opportunity to sit around a table, drink coffee, nibble biscuits and have some directionless conversation. What makes this more sickening is the fact that one needs to waste more time drawing up a minutes for this wasted time.

I think emails and phone calls serve the purpose more than having a meeting in person.

This observation of mine doesn’t hold good when there is some real pressing need for having people across the table or when you are meeting a genuinely concerned person who wants a solution for his problem. For example an account review, finalizing a campaign, putting together the annual plan, budgets etc.

I wanted to validate this observation of mine by collating some data on the meetings I have been taking for the last one month. This includes the time spent on meetings internally as well as with the clients (leaving alone the joblist reviews and other trivial meetings).

Then figuring out the purpose of the meeting, how much time did we have the meeting for, did we come to any useful conclusion at the end of the meeting and most importantly was the conclusions reviewed and the action taken.

I found that I have taken 14 meetings in the last 31 days.

The average time I have spent on meetings is approximately 42 hours

Of this 42 hours only about 7.5 hours were productive. This means we discussed business only 7.5 hours of the 42 hours of sitting around a table.

So what the hell were we doing in the other 34.5 hours?

a) Waiting for someone to join us
b) Waiting when someone part of the meeting took a washroom break
c) Waiting for someone to finish a call
d) Discussing about biscuits, toffee and the coffee that was being served
e) Discussed about George W Bush, C Rice and Saddam
f) Discussed music, record labels and chart busters
g) Discussed countries and economies
h) Counting the number of mechanical cranes in Dubai
i) Discussing about the metro project in Dubai
j) Postmortem on the Football world cup and a curtain raiser on the Cricket world cup
k) Sharing some stupid jokes and pretended to be laughing
l) Meaninglessly digressed off topic
m) Worthlessly debated a non issue

Well, these are only some I could take note of. There were many other very important moments as part of this 34.5 hours.

Of that 7.5 hours, we had these two almost an hour long meetings. These are the ones I would remember from the last 31 days as meaningful meetings where we arrived at a decision and have actioned it since.

So, only 2 out of 14 have been productive meetings overall. Except for those few minutes of productive time from the others.

So what could we infer from these statistics?

1) Never gather a large crowd for meetings
2) Like a parrot keep saying “What we are discussing in this meeting is…” every 10 minutes
3) Try and close trivial things over phone or emails
5) Take meetings if and only if it is of extreme importance. Say, while starting something or closing a deal
6) Try and levy a fees for meetings. “An hour of mine costs $ X”

This is what I could take out from the last 31 days. Hope I learn from the mistakes I have committed in the last 31 days and correct them soon.

But I am sure I can never avoid this, but maybe I can try reduce the amount of time lost.

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