I've read so many articles about how to stop wasting time in meetings that I feel there should be articles about how to stop wasting time by reading about that topic. But the stats don't lie--the business world has a CC problem.
According to Pew Research:
· 50 percent of all meetings are considered wasted
· 28 percent of all time is consumed in email
· 30-60 percent of time is spent in or coordinating meetings
In order to understand how to fix the problem of unproductive meetings, we must realize why it occurs. While there are many thoughtful opinions, it's essentially a hierarchy issue. Let's look at the following (highly exaggerated) scenario of what happens when you send an invite or email to see how it works.
Typically, when you send a meeting invitation, there are three kinds of people you can CC: those at higher, lower, or equal levels in your company. Human nature being what it is, you'll quickly cc those at an equal or lower rank than yourself. Inviting someone above you may seem a little risky and is only done if the meeting is very important (remember this fact).
Now imagine the effect your invitation has on others.
The people at your level in the company usually want to know what you're up to, so they typically answer the email or agree to the meeting. People below you may have better things to do, but they invariably open the email or agree to the meeting--after all, you outrank them.
Since you've organized the meeting and are the senior person in it, all of your invitees will want to make sure their voices get heard. Imagine you ask a question, and Person A answers it.
Now, Person B will never say that Person A has said all there is to be said on the topic. Instead, she will mostly agree, but to impress you, introduce a nuance to the discussion.
At that point, Person C, desperate that all of the low-hanging fruit has been taken, will say something that begins with, "I wonder if we should be looking at this from a different angle." At this rate, most of time in the meeting is used up without a lot of progress.
On the email front, the problem is even more insidious.
If you send an email to seven people, and all seven reply, everyone now has eight emails to consider. If everyone replies to everyone again, you have 49 more emails to read, all on the same topic.
A further full-scale reply then produces an additional 343 emails--without even considering the possibility that someone might clarify one they've already sent. That said, if you CC'd two less people, the second generation email-return-risk would only be 125. Think of the time saved.
And here's the worst part: as I noted above, you have not included more senior people in your meeting or on your email thread because it was not all that important in the first place. Thus the time everyone is spending sending replies to you is in inverse proportion to your own opinion of the value of the email or meeting.
You are consuming massive amounts of time with something that's not vital to your company's success.
The clear call-to-action here is to stop with the CC button.
Become antisocial. Before you call a meeting or send an email to a dozen people, make sure you understand what outcome you want to achieve with it. Then, limit the communication to the people who will contribute to that goal.
Remember, it's human nature to want to invite everyone to the party, but at work, being antisocial will pave the way to getting more done.