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The Current

How to Save $37 Billion

Danielle Short /

The average employee has 62 meetings a month, spending 31 hours in unproductive meetings resulting in a $37 billion salary cost.

We all know the basics of meetings 101- have an objective, start and end on time, give everyone an opportunity to contribute, stay on topic, don’t hold excessive meetings, etc.

…mind-blowing stuff here I know.

And yet, how many people still sit in meetings that run 15-30 minutes longer than scheduled? Where one person dominates the conversation or someone reads you a slideshow that your 2nd grader could have read to you? How many meetings do you spend checking email, Twitter, or your fantasy football stats while you wait for someone to email the minutes?

Odd that almost 70% of the workforce is disengaged*

Let’s take the basics a step further and save everyone a little time, money, and sanity:

Keep meetings as small as possible.

Steve Jobs was infamous for asking people to leave if they didn’t have to be there or declining a meeting if there were too many attendees. Stop with the participation awards- either people have something to contribute or they don’t need to be there.

We are meeting to discuss XYZ is not an objective.

There is a difference between a reason and an objective. Don’t just have a reason for the meeting- have a clear visible goal of what you want to accomplish-  write it on the whiteboard, display it from a laptop, include in the meeting invite etc. Have something explicit and actionable.

Write it down.

Amazon has become known for their 6-Page Narratives. The meeting organizer writes a 6-page memo in which they state context or problem, their suggested approach, how that approach is different from previous approaches, and what’s in it for the customer. Each meeting starts in silence as everyone reads the printed material and then each person asks questions, gives their opinion, and a decision is made. No politics or campaigning and writing the narrative forces the organizer to be prepared not just with defining a problem, but also with potential solutions.

No decision should wait for a meeting.

When Larry Page took over as CEO of Google one of the first things he did was send out a company-wide email on the expectations of running a meeting including that no decision should be put on hold to wait for a meeting. If a meeting does need to take place than it should be a top priority and scheduled immediately.

Stop hiding behind PowerPoint.

Let me repeat this one- stop hiding behind PowerPoint. I’m going to make the assumption that you work with mostly intelligent, competent people that can read a PowerPoint slide just as easily as you can read it to them. Have real conversation, bring your opinions, challenge each other- true collaboration happens when you are forced to listen and engage not just nod along while someone reads you slides they will send out afterwards.

Clear next steps/actions.

Have clear next steps and follow up with an email or other documentation listing them out- what do you need to learn, what hurdles do you need to clear, what tasks need to be completed, and mostly importantly who is responsible for what?

I sat inside Corporate America and saw first-hand what inefficiencies can do to a company. I’ve also experienced what happens when you’re able to inspire and paint the picture of a future state you’re all working towards. Don’t read off a long list of what you want to accomplish but rather start with your team and focus on engaging them.

There’s no magic formula on how to run the perfect meeting and even the best CEO’s have different styles. However, critical thinking and engagement remain consistent and are essential to any approach.


* Source: Gallup Employee Engagement

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