June 20, 2008

The Cost of Meetings - How Much Return on Investment Do YOU Get?

Earlier today I tweeted about something I've been thinking about on and off for years:


So here we go: Meeting accounter...

Customise your counter via the URL: http://ouseful.open.ac.uk/clock/mtgAcct.php?num=7&sal=25000&expenses=100

  • num: number of meeting participants;

  • sal: average salary (whole pounds/dollars);

  • expenses: should be "overheads", really (in whole pounds/dollars); any immediate/direct costs covered by the meeting (travel expenses, coffee and biscuits etc. etc.).

When you load the page, it'll start calculating how much you've spent on the meeting so far, in units of pounds/pence (dallars/cents). The counter maxes out at 10k ;-)

If the counter is displayed during the meeting, then everyone can decide whether or not the meeting is generating a sensible return. Whoever has the courage to call off a meeting on the grounds it probably isn't worth it should get 10% of the expected meeting costs saved to spend on a project of their choice (no meetings allowed ;-).

Related to this, I suggest every meeting has as part of the meeting minutes a standard area along with attendees/apologies etc. that reports the 'person days equivalent' spent attending the minuted meeting, and the 'ballpark cost' of that meeting, e.g. as measured by the meeting accounter). When the minutes are being agreed, everyone can be asked "so was it worth the expense?"

As the culture of 'meeting accountancy" evolves, you could imagine that when agreeing an agenda for a future meeting, an 'expected cost of meeting' estimate should be attached, along with the expected ROI of that meeting, so everyone can clarify what the meeting is supposed to achieve in terms of return ;-)

As the time and effort of calculating the costs and returns of meetings increases/becomes appropriately burdensome, a process of "pre-meeting costings" should be instituted, where the costs of calculating the costs and returns of the meeting are added into the  costs of the meeting. (To offset costs incurred during a meeting, the cost of time spent diary setting for the NEXT meeting should be allowed to be carried forward to the NEXT meeting (so the next meeting is costed for the time spent in the previous meeting setting it up). Any decisions pushed forward to a future meeting can also be costed back from that future meeting to the previous meeting. To offset bankrupting future meetings by overlabouring 'next meeting date' activity, any time spent after the meeting having to rearrange dates/times for the next meeting should be costed back to the meeting where the date was set. To prevent future meetings bankrupting previous meetings (e.g. by virtue of spending large amounts of time rearranging meeting dates or addressing issues pushed forward by a previous meeting), no future meetings should ever be agreed to by anyone.

PS if you haven't already seen it: OMG...There are spies everywhere sabotaging our organizations!!. Declassified espionage manual suggests sabotage teechniques that actually read like "Meeting Guidance" notes.

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Posted by ajh59 at June 20, 2008 05:15 PM