Science and Fiction of Meetings

Jeff De Cagna sent me an article from the Sloan Management Review about “the science and fiction of meetings” (thanks, Jeff). Here are some data tidbids:

  • The amount of times we spend in meetings doubled between the 1960s and 1980s, but might be tapering off now.
  • American workers attend 11 million meetings a year.
  • Senior managers spend an estimated 23 hours in meetings per week.
  • People who are less goal oriented indicate that attending more meetings was actually desirable (how depressing is that!?)
  • Despite the common “meeting hell” lament that the researchers got when broaching this topic with companies, 59% of the survey respondents rated meetings as good to excellent in terms of productivity.

The authors are surprised (as am I) that organizations don’t invest more in ensuring meetings go well, given how much money they invest in meetings to begin with. Think about it. Take the combined salaries of ALL of your senior managers. Now divide that in half. That’s how much money you spend for just your senior managers to attend meetings. (I know, it’s not that simple. But you get the point).

Their suggestion: learn the basics

The reality is that many companies would see significant improvements if employees simply learned some of the basics: when to call meetings, how to prepare an agenda, how to encourage participation and how to manage cultural differences and resolve conflicts.

Well, some of those are not so basic (the last two). And there are multiple answers about calling meetings and preparing agendas. This is all stuff I will address in my upcoming session on staff meetings at the ASAE & The Center Great Ideas Conference.