Posted by: knightbird | December 1, 2011

Meeting Waste

Following up on yesterday’s blog, I thought about the conduct of the meeting I attended. I attend a lot of similar meetings, but almost none in my organization. In this meeting we had a timed agenda. The focus of the meeting was not real clear in my mind, but then the meeting was part of a series of meetings of the same group to address the issue assigned them. The team leader had a clear agenda to implement. And as I reported yesterday, the problem was not clearly defined, there was no data available, the value stream wasn’t understood and judgment ran rapid.

The meeting reminded me of a talk I attended about 25 years ago given by the Prime Minister of the Yukon Territory. Using his hands, he said “The Japanese plan this much (very wide reach) and implement this much (much shorter reach).” He reversed that for the Americans, very little planning and a long implementation span. Interestingly enough, one of the online participants volunteered that the problem being addressed at this meeting was the same problem they had 20 years ago. Talk about long implementation time and short planning time.

Anyway, this meeting had a number of pieces of paper. I recall 6 or 7 pages. Two of the sessions were facilitated. One session was a demonstration of the use of an A-3 by my staff. All of the sessions were free flow and it was quite interesting. A couple of participants commented about silos and in the process demonstrated how much ownership they invested in their silo. One Executive commented about being there only to observe. It was an example of being forced to attend without buy-in to the problem, which wasn’t well defined.

At the end of the meeting, the team leader had to be excused because of another meeting to facilitate during the lunch hour.

Oh. One of the report items was that an Executive Leadership Team had been formed to implement the improvements and assume responsibility for the project. Apparently no member of that ELT was present at the meeting to show how important the project was.

I hate to think of the incredible amount of meeting waste this organization sponsors. 30 people plus attended the meeting. Preparation and follow-up time consumes time by the 3 staff responsible for the project and the series of meetings. I estimated the cost of meeting conservatively at $3,000, without considering the input of staff time and expense. Telephone time alone may have been hundreds of dollars.

Since I am not an ongoing participant in the series of meetings, I may not be completely accurate in some of my observations. But as a lean professional, I know that there is a far better process for achieving the improvements being sought at a greatly reduced level of meeting waste.

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