Santhosh Sundar


Meetings are expensive. Minimize them.

Image courtesy: MISE

Every time you step into a meeting room, you are burning a lot of your organization’s money. Part of the budget your project or a team receives will be spent on meetings. These spendings are often ignored or not accounted in the overall budget otherwise.

Let’s assume you have a team of 10 senior developers working on a bunch of tasks for 8-hours a day and they are billed at $100/hour. The combined time consumed by 10 developers is 80 hours at the cost of $8,000 for a given day. In theory, that’s a budget well spent if your developers had a productive 8-hours of their day. But then, there are meetings to attend.

If your team of 10 developers is in a meeting for an hour, that translates to:

10 developers x $100 per hour = $1,000 per meeting.

You just had a meeting that took $1,000 off your day’s budget of $8,000. Before I jump into the reality, let’s assume it was a productive meeting and everyone are perfectly aligned to each other’s thought processes. But let’s face it — not all meetings are productive.

  • There are meetings that are totally unnecessary taking the time off your team.
  • There are meetings that go off-topic.
  • There are meetings that involve endless conversations between two that are completely unwanted to the rest of the team.
  • There are meetings where people just sit in the corner and don’t contribute to the discussions. Needless to say, it’s better off when they spend their time doing the “real work” instead of wasting the time and money.
  • There are meetings that are completely boring.

What you can do as an organizer of the meeting:

  • Question yourself. Is this meeting really required? Do I have the agenda in place that could make it productive? How will it benefit the team?
  • Don’t just host meetings for the pleasure of meeting your team. There are better ways to do it.
  • Don’t involve people who are not necessary.
  • Stagger the meetings. Not all 10 developers would be required throughout the hour. Start the discussion by priority and let people get back to work.
  • Don’t setup meetings to impress your boss or the team otherwise.
  • Have a “no meeting” day once or twice a month. It’s perfectly great for your health and the organization.
  • Don’t be the reason for your team’s delay. Too many meetings = less real work. And less real work = delay in delivery. See who’s the problem?

What you can do as a participant:

  • Decline the meeting request if you genuinely feel that you can make a better progress by doing the “real work” instead of wasting the time by attending it.
  • Speak up! You are there to contribute to the discussions in some way or the other. If you can’t do that, just don’t attend the meetings.
  • Talk to the organizer before the meeting. Check if it is really required for the team. You might be the lead who can provide the update to the organizer. By doing this, you don’t just save $1,000, but also spare your fellow developers from attending boring meetings!
  • If there is a dire need of your team to know updates from the organizer, but you can’t afford the other 9 developers take their time off the “real work”, attend it on their behalf and share the Minutes of Meetings (MoM) with them.
Having said that, we all need meetings. There is no escape. They are essential to the overall success of a team and the organization. The cost of having no meetings at all could be far more expensive. It is just that we need find a sweet-spot by optimizing the time spent in meetings for efficient communication and enhanced productivity.

HBR has a Meeting Cost Calculator tool that you can use while setting the budget for your upcoming project.

Putting these into practice would save a large amount of money to your organization and help your team get more productive. Be considerate before clicking on the meeting request send button.

If you like the post, share it with your team and friends. I’m @Gigacore on Twitter. Find the complete list of my articles over here.

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