The Bad Meeting Test

Meeting picThere is no joy like that of a cancelled meeting. The stay of execution. The snow day when we were kids.

But you know they will plow the roads and there will be school tomorrow.  The meeting will be re-scheduled. You’ve dodged a bullet for now but it will come back. It always comes back.

Why do we do it to ourselves? So many bad meetings, so much wasted time. Bad meetings are like something that is done to us. Not pain, but more like discomfort or dread.

Beyond the individual suffering that bad meetings cause, our income statement is suffering too. The cost of bad meetings are among the single largest expenses that you can’t see on your P&L.

According to, companies in the U.S. waste $37 billion per year on bad meetings. 47% of employees surveyed considered meetings their biggest waste of time and 39% of employees admitted to falling asleep during meetings. At least they are catching up on sleep.

On average, employees spend more than 1/3 of their time in meetings. Think about that for a minute: multiply your company payroll expense by 1/3 and that’s how much you’re spending on meetings. In an average size beer distributor with a payroll of $3million, that’s $1 million per year invested in meetings. With those kinds of numbers, it pays to spend a little time analyzing your company meetings and determining how bad they are.

The Bad Meeting Test

  1. Do all meetings have an agenda that is sent out well in advance?
  2. Do meetings begin and end on time?
  3. Do you meet only to make decisions, or support a previous decision?  Not simply to discuss an issue or inform folks what’s going on (that’s why we have email).
  4. Do all attendees prepare in advance and participate in the meeting? In other words, no lurkers sitting in the back of the room working on unrelated stuff.
  5. Do you take notes of the meeting and distribute shortly after the meeting? Notes on what was said, decisions made, and action items

Chances are you answered no to one or more of the questions above. Chances are your company is like most companies and you’re holding a lot of bad meetings.

The first step is to recognize you’ve got a problem – a case of bad meetings. The next step is to do something about it. Distribute the Bad Meeting Test to your managers and see how they do. Add questions that you think are relevant or more important, and discard those you don’t find helpful. The goal is to reduce or eliminate the bad meetings, and the related suffering from employees and your income statement.

Only you can prevent bad meetings. Your employees and your P&L are counting on you.