19 January 2007

Meeting Efficiency

There are times when meetings are useful; for example when you want to develop consensus on a decision, where you want to brainstorm ideas and so forth, but is a meeting the right way to get things done or to communicate a message?

It certainly isn’t efficient once you get above half a dozen people.

I’ve put together a table to demonstrate the point.

On the left I have the number of participants. I have then estimated the time it would take to communicate a typical message or address a particular problem in a meeting, based on the number of people in the room.

As you probably know; the more people in the room the longer the meeting takes. People will arrive late, side discussions occur, new agenda items are raised, and the more people in the room the more formal and complex your delivery of the message needs to be.

So calculate the amount of time you spend in the meeting by the number of people in the room and you get the work hours invested into the issue.

Compare this with one-on-one interviews or meetings. Sure when there are just a handful of you in the room you can get more done for less, but as the audience grows the investment into the meeting grows and becomes obviously an inefficient way of dealing with things.

Multiply these estimates by the dozens of meetings across dozens or even hundreds of projects within large organisations and you see the potential for time saving.

Just because it’s more efficient for you as the project manager or business analyst does not make it the best way. Additionally you will get better engagement from the participants in smaller groups and the quality of the discussions will be higher.

Naturally there are exceptions where you need to pull people together but as you can see from this table you are better off working smaller groups.
Next time you call a meeting think about who you want there and why – and how many people you want to deal with at a time

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