Home >industry >human-resource >Around 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings: study

Mumbai: Around 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings -- a number that has increased every year since 2008.

Top executives lose thousands of hours each year responding to emails and sitting in unproductive meetings, and the losses snowball through their organizations—simply because companies do not track and monitor employees’ time as tightly as other resources such as capital.

These are the findings of a May 2014 study on time management and impact on organizations by consulting firm Bain and Co.

One company’s weekly senior leadership meeting directly consumed 7,000 hours per year for the attendees—but 300,000 hours company-wide among subordinates in preparation and related meetings, the study said.

“Yet most companies have no ability to quantify how their executives and other employees spend their time because they do not track and measure it," it said.

Bain teamed up with VoloMetrix Inc, an enterprise analytics company, to examine the time budgets of 17 large corporations.

“Executives today on average receive 30,000 external communications per year, up from 1,000 in the 1970s. At the current rate, executives will soon spend more than one day each week managing electronic communications," it said.

Senior executives on average devote more than two days each week to meetings with three or more co-workers. A meeting that starts just five minutes late costs a company 8% of that meeting – a loss that would be untenable in any other resource category.

At one company, about 1 in 5 meeting participants sent an average of three or more emails for every 30 minutes of meeting time.

At a sample 10,000-employee business, $60 million – 20% of the total cost of meetings – was squandered in unproductive activity, the study said.

What if time really was money? Bain notes that if time really was money, and accounted for in the same way, “many companies would be running huge deficits." The firm says that organizations need to audit their expenditure on time and install controls to stop the haemorrhaging of an increasingly valuable asset.

“The wastage of time is very significant. Companies in India also face the structural organizational challenges that firms in other developed countries deal with. However, in India, we often don’t see time as sacrosanct but rather view it as flexible which often leads to tremendous wastage," said Prashant Sarin, head of Bain & Co’s organization practice in India.

One power company used to conduct a detailed review of all aspects of its business for two days each week, which consumed a tremendous amount of senior management time.

“A better use of time could have been weekly MIS (management information system) reports to review the entire operations, and then conducting deep dives into specific problem areas. In addition, the company could have complemented such measures by conducting detailed monthly on-site reviews," said Sarin.

“In India, there is also more of a social component in offices than in developed countries, where it is much more about getting your work done and going home or leaving office," said Sarin.

The study also cited case studies where Apple Inc. could cut the wastage by making the time agenda clear and selective. This cut through the noise and enabled Apple to invest the time of its top talent strategically, without dilution or waste, dramatically accelerating the pace of innovation, it said.

Bain’s study also noted that at Ford Motor Co., all materials for weekly business plan reviews must be distributed in advance so that participants can review them before the meetings -- this reduces the time devoted to information sharing during the review.

“Time wastage has a clear impact on labour productivity. Just as you look to maximize your return on capital employed, you need to get the most out of your talent through the efficient use of time. Otherwise, this can lead to lower turnaround times and higher inefficiencies which have a cascading impact across the organization," Sarin said.

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