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Research Triangle Business Advisors

May 2014 Newsletter


No matter what size company you manage or own, a significant amount of time is wasted in meetings.  That is not to say we should not have meetings, it means we need to be more efficient with meeting time. Most companies have strong financial controls in place to limit spending, but little or nothing to control wasting time. And, that means we should be implementing strong time management controls, just as we have done in managing finances. This month we look at reclaiming some of those wasted employee hours.


  Bob De Contreras




How to Reclaim Wasted Employee Hours

Daily, weekly, or monthly meetings! You might have one, two, or more, and not really think too much about them. An hour here, two hours there, it’s the cost of doing business, right?

Not so, says a recent Harvard Business School study. Those meetings and the downstream impact of them can really add up the wasted hours.

Consider the number of hours spent in support of a weekly senior management staff meeting. A one hour meeting among the CEO and five “C” level executives adds up to six hours. The meeting focuses on an issue facing the company and each executive is asked to do research into the problem. Now, each of these executives asks one or two employees to look into the problem and that adds up to twelve to thirty-six more hours. Then, some of these employees share their results and have a discussion with other employees who were assigned to look into the problem and that adds another twelve to thirty-six hours. Add it all up and your one hour staff meeting has generated seventy-eight hours of potentially wasted time. Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and you get a whopping 4,056 hours wasted. In one study of a very large company it was discovered that the impact of the weekly executive staff meeting generated 300,000 hours of wasted time per year. If we consider the employees in my example earn a conservative $50,000 per year that 4,056 hours works out to over $106,000 loss per year from the effects of just one meeting type.

The Harvard Business School study noted that with the cost of videoconferencing, Skype and other electronic communication tools decreasing, the number of invitations and meeting requests has increased to 15% of an organization’s collective time being spent in meetings, and this percentage has increased each year since 2008.

The question is, what can you do if you find your company following this path? Below are some suggestions and questions you should ask to identify and assess potential time management problems:


1. In meetings don’t assign tasks to the group.  Only assign a task to one person and direct that person to staff it out to no more than one person. This avoids duplication of effort.

2. In meetings ask for a volunteer to take on an assignment. The volunteer will waste less time than someone that views the assignment as more “busy work.” This will get to a solution faster and therefore save time.

3. In meetings, record assignments made and distribute in writing electronically to the meeting attendees immediately after the meeting. This will avoid wasted time created by misunderstanding from the meeting.  Not everyone is adept at listening and some use confusion as an excuse.

4. Don’t waste time in meetings solving problems by committee.  Use your meetings for status and update only.  Any work that is needed should be assigned out and reported on at the next meeting.  This way one person is working the problem not six.  i.e., one-sixth the time spent

5. Schedule meetings a little before the start or end of the business day. This way you will minimize the negative impact on the regular business day activities.


1. Are you using people's talents in the best way?

A company may have great people, but if the company’s not maximizing their talents, it can minimize their effectiveness and output – wasting time. Management needs to know where their employees’ strengths lie, what they do, and how those strengths are transferrable. The process needs to be a continuous one, with management constantly evaluating staff and how their talents can be used in the best way. Efficiency saves time.

2. Does your organizational structure interfere with employee's job performance?

How is the company structured? Are there several layers of management between the CEO/owner and customer facing employees? If so, this may slow the flow of communication and decision-making. More supervisors mean more cost in terms of meetings scheduled, preparation time, etc. Simplifying and streamlining operations can free up time.

3. How do people communicate with each other?

Take a look at how your company communicates, and weigh the time it takes against what actually gets done. Time is an organization’s scarcest, and most often squandered, resource. Is there a purpose for each meeting? Are there restrictions in place for who can call a meeting? Many companies relegate these functions to low-level employees.

For example, when a software company realized a regular 90-minute meeting of managers cost the company more than $100,000 a year, its leadership discovered an administrative assistant had scheduled the meetings and the team just attended. In effect, a junior executive’s administrative assistant was permitted to invest $100,000 without supervisor approval. No such thing would ever happen with the company’s financial capital.

4. Are your employees inspired to do their best work?

How engaged are your employees? Are they inspired to perform well? Do you share your appreciation of successes with your employees? Do you set consequences (positive and negative) for all your employee assignments?


Evaluate your team to make sure everyone’s on the same page and ensure nobody’s wasting your organization’s time.


Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | Greensboro | North Carolina
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