Opportunity #3

Excessive, Unproductive &  Frivolous Meetings

Savings Potential $62,000,000.00+



   During my 12 plus years as Recording Secretary I've attended an estimated 2 thousand + meetings. This may not qualify me as an expert, however I believe it does give me credentials to speak knowledgeably on the subject. Here's some of the observations I've made I think should be of interest.


   Many of the meetings I've attended were poorly managed or facilitated, however over the last couple of years I have seen improvements in this area. A lot of necessary meetings sometimes become a problem because of productivity. Meetings with the highest priority are useless if the objective never gets met, if nothing gets accomplished. Productivity and necessity should be the main ingredients of any meeting but that's rarely the case. Additionally, productivity and necessity is rarely evaluated. There’s also an abundance of completely unnecessary meetings.


   Hundreds of people in the Company attend meetings every day. Anytime I'm at the Service Building, WCB, General Office, Southfield Center, Macomb Center there are always meetings in progress other than the one I'm there to attend. Being as low on the food chain as I am, I'm certain there are numerous people who attend substantially more meetings than I do, because

proportionately more people attend meetings the higher up the ladder you go.


   Determining how many DTE employees attend meetings everyday might be a near impossible task, then add to that, making the ever critical judgment as to how many are necessary. A very modest guess is at least 300-400 DTE employees attend meetings everyday. The number of meeting hours per day is likely measured in hundreds if not thousands of hours.


   All that's needed to reach 1000 hours for a day is to have 250 people so engaged for 4 hours. Few meetings involve less than 2-4 hours considering travel time and mileage is usually associated with the attendance of some participants. Given the number of people likely involved in meetings each day, the weekly number of hours is conservatively between 10 and 15 thousand.


   We should have a vested interest in making sure meetings are necessary, properly facilitated and productive. If meetings were monitored for necessity and productivity and properly facilitated, it could result in fewer meetings, fewer participants, and potentially provide significant savings by minimizing the number of employees attending meetings and away from their jobs, and actually increasing productivity of the enterprise by having unnecessary participants engaged in the jobs they where hired to perform.


Here's some issues;

   At most meetings, someone attends who either doesn't know the purpose of the meeting or arrives completely unprepared. If participants repeatedly fail to bring something to the table, their inclusion should stop. Sometimes this is a result of people being invited to meetings based on their work area or department, not on expertise or ability to contribute. There should be more attention to detail in making sure those invited will have something to lend to the meeting.


   Often there's at least one or more in attendance who have their own agenda separate from the scope and purpose of the meeting at hand and will try to use the meeting as a vehicle to serve personal agendas. Sometimes there are those in attendance who are either incapable of, or simply refuse to stay on course. This problem becomes magnified if there's no one in charge capable or willing to interrupt errant speakers and bring them back on course until either, a substantial amount of time has been wasted, or by some stroke of luck they run out of things to say. This always has a negative effect on flow and productivity and is often the single biggest stumbling block for any meeting to progress towards it's goal.


   Goals frequently pose another problem. If the goal changes during the meeting, often there's no backup or alternate plan and the meeting stagnates and ends without gaining new life or direction. If an idea or plan doesn't work out, a substitute plan or goal should be handy to put into play. It appears often no one is present during many of these meetings either capable of or authorized to establish new goals if the original goal fails to bare fruit. These meetings always end up a waste of time.


   Technology also has had an impact on meetings over the last 12 years. In the early 90’s few people had cell phones, laptops, internet access, email capability, even pagers. 12 years ago most distractions came from people coming into the room to pull someone out for a phone call or maybe hand them a note.


   Today, phones and beepers ring at the meeting table, people walk to the corner of the room to take or make a call and sometimes they just take the call at the meeting table. Inconsideration is something we all have to contend with from time to time, but actions like this go well beyond that.


   We need to develop criteria for measuring the need, productivity and success of meetings, reduce the number of meetings and limit attendance to necessary personnel only. A full 50 percent of meetings probably could be eliminated and the other 50 percent benefit from the aforementioned overhaul. The costs of meetings are further impacted by paid time to travel to and from the meetings, step up pay for replacements for those in critical positions when absent. If 125 employees could be eliminated from meetings and re-engaged in their normal work it would amount to millions. Using lower end wage rates and minimal travel time, mileage and step up pay for replacements, the Company could save minimally 25 thousand dollars a day (31 1/4 million annual) in meeting time, add another 25 thousand dollars a day (31 1/4 million annually) in having a re-engaged workforce earning their way. This comes to about a $62,500,000.00 difference to the Company’s bottom line over the next 5 years.


This page originally uploaded 05/03/06. Last revised on 07/08/06

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