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Saturday, July 18, 2009

In Search of Lost Time

In all organizations meetings are necessary and natural to conduct business. As in all processes there are value added and non value added actions. These non value added actions can be very costly to companies and they don’t even “see” it.

We have all been to meetings that don’t start on-time because people are late in arriving. Waiting is one of the eight wastes that we find in meetings. This is one I particularly loathe. No organization has endless resources so wasting human capital is senseless and unfortunately far too common. Have you ever stopped to consider the cost implication of this waiting?

Let’s consider that there are 10 meetings a day that start 5 minutes late and the average hourly rate of the 10 attendees is $30/hour. This would mean we have lost 500 minutes (8 1/3 hours) of non-value added time per day at a cost of $250 per day. If you carry this analysis through for a year you get 125,000 minutes (260 days wasted) at a cost of $62,500. So the impact of 5 meetings per day starting 5 minutes late for one person per year would be about 12 days of lost productivity.

In doing some research for this post I came across a great device related to this issue. We have all heard the saying that “Time is Money”. Well, Brad Johnson invented a time management tool that displays the cost of every second of your meetings. You enter the average hourly rate and the number of people in the meeting and the calculator counts up the cost of your meeting. Bring TIM! to any meeting as a great visual reminder of the investment in human capital at the meeting.

Waiting is only one of the eight wastes present in many meetings and rather then detail the other wastes let’s characterize those meeting as ineffective. The res of this post will focus on strategies that can be used to make your meetings more effective.

Ron Pereira suggests the use of a good SPACER before each meeting. SPACER is an anagram for Safety, Purpose, Agenda, Conduct, Expectations and Roles.

Safety – is always the top priority, discuss safety protocols like evacuation, PPE or safety equipment needed in the facility, bathroom location, etc.
Purpose – “what is the meeting for?”, discuss what is in scope and what might not be.

Agenda – no matter what type of meeting or for how long there should be some sort of plan

Conduct – what are the rules the team participants should adhere to while in the meeting like cell phone us, side discussions, etc.

Expectations – what do we expect to get out of this meeting especially if it is a training session

Roles – what are the roles of the participants in the meeting, is there a note taker or time keeper for example

Performing SPACER with the meeting participants can take as long or as short as you need to set the framework of the meeting. This can be a great way to start building team work from the first meeting.

The use of a flip chart can be valuable in supporting SPACER as well as for creating a “parking lot” of topics out of scope during the meeting.

Stephanie Calahan reveals some other tips to help you save time and money by running effective meetings.
- Don’t hold a meeting if you don’t need to or if another way will work like phone, email, etc.
- Start at unconventional times like 10:10 so participants don’t come late
- Make sure key stakeholders attend your meeting if their attendance is critical
- Try standing so the meeting will be shorter since participants won’t be so comfortable
- Use timers to keep on task and follow an agenda
- Review action items at the end of the meeting and schedule a follow-up to ensure there completion

One of the biggest challenges to meeting effectiveness is we are essentially creatures of habit. We do things this way because we have always done things this way – status quo. In a Lean environment we need to learn to “see” the wastes in our business including how we conduct business like meetings and find better ways to do these activities.

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