IT Best Practices

This Weekly Meeting Took Up 300,000 Hours a Year

Can you imagine what a horror it would be if there was a meeting that lasted for years on end at a time? No, none of us can, but the equivalent of this nightmare scenario could be happening at your organization right now. Michael C. Mankins writes for the Harvard Business Review about the 300,000 hour executive committee meeting.

Three with Five Zeroes

Mankins broke down mathematically the time spent in meetings at a given organization. One weekly executive committee meeting accounted for 7,000 hours of person hours collectively. Eleven unit heads had prepared for this meeting by first meeting with their senior advisors, each of which accounted for another 1,800 hours. Each of 21 teams underneath senior advisors spent 3,000 hours per year in meetings. Then finally, another 130 meetings, each taking up over 1,500 hours per year of worker time, occurred to support those team meetings. The resulting grand total of 300,000 hours does not even factor in the time spent preparing for the meetings.

Delving further into the research, Mankins starts to see what this means for various organizations, especially as it pertains to human capital productivity (HCP):

Using a decade’s worth of data for the S&P 500, we looked at revenue per employee, a crude but useful measure of HCP. Then we compared those figures with each company’s financial performance. Since revenue per employee varies widely among industries, we confined our comparisons to companies in the same business.

The results jumped out at us. The best companies — those in the top quartile of revenue per employee — did 30% better than their peers in return on invested capital, 40% better in operating margin, and 80% better in revenue growth. Those differences contributed to a whopping 180% differential in total shareholder return over the 10-year period.

There are a few ways then to get the HCP numbers to look more agreeable. First, you need to make sure you have hired the right people for the jobs in the first place. Next, you need to make sure the people who do have sufficient talent are not being limited in their ability to execute. Organizational structure should not get in the way of high performance. Then of course, people need to find ways to interact that are not too costly in terms of time. If none of these factors seem to be affecting your business, it could just be that employees are unmotivated, which is a whole other can of worms.

You can read Mankins’ full article here:

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