March 25, 2006

Meeting the Value of Time

Towards the end of the movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mr. Hand (a teacher), shows up at a student's home (Jeff Spicoli) the night of the graduation dance to tell him that he's wasted 8 hours of his (the teacher's) time during the school year.

Mr Hand is there to square the time account with Spicoli. In my opinion in the real business world, there are very few equivalents to Mr. Hand's forced reconciling of time. Well, actually they show up when it's too late. For example - shareholders, regulators, creditors, lawyers, etc...

Based upon my experience the teams and companies that attain their goals are the one that manage time effectively in everything they do from emails, to projects, to meetings.

Speaking of meetings, have you ever been in a meeting with a bunch of people and not accomplish anything? I know I have. Is it possible to compute the lost value of the meeting?

The simplest way is to compute the hourly value of every single person from their salary. For example a $50,000 per year salary, works out to approximately $30 per hour. I compute this assuming 12 months, 20 working days per month and a 7 hour day.

The meeting was held with 5 other people, plus yourself making 6 in total and it lasted 2 hours. For this exercise let assume that everyone's hourly equivalent is $30 per hour. This means that the meeting's valuation was $360. You might say this isn't much, but even in a small company this happens multiple times per day silently adding up lost productivity. By the way - if this is a meeting of people that carry a quota, or perform billable work, the impact can easily be at least 10 times higher.

So what can you do to value time more effectively? Here are some suggestions:

1. At the start of every meeting ask for the reason for the gathering and expected outcome. If this can't be answered then break the meeting up right away. If there are reasons and desired outcomes, make sure the right people are there. If not, reschedule the meet;

2. If a meeting can be accomplished via email cancel it;

3. Make sure that the staff that do billable work and/or sales are doing that most of the time. Meetings and non revenue generating tasks should be relegated to one or two days per week;

4. Every meeting should have an agenda that is sent out in advance. End the meeting if people arrive unprepared;

5. Take minutes, follow up with an email summary of action items.

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