Pointless meetings set to cost UK economy £45 billion in 2019

22 January 2019 Consultancy.uk

As the world’s largest economies encounter an enduring drag on productivity numbers, a new report has found that work meetings are draining billions pounds from revenues every year. According to the study, more than 2 million years of productivity are wasted annually thanks to poorly organised or unimportant meetings being inflicted on employees.

When you are sat in a slow-moving, seemingly endless office meeting, it can sometimes feel like a million years. Now, however, it turns out that figurative feeling might be in tune with a very literal implication for businesses across the world, as a new study has found that more than 2.8 million years of productivity are lost annually to ‘pointless’ or poorly organised meetings.

Online scheduling platform Doodle hosts over 30 million users every month, and believes this gives the company an unparalleled understanding of the challenges and solutions that commonly occur in scheduling meetings. Following the interview of more than 6,500 professionals across the UK, Germany, the USA and Switzerland, the company also examined 19 million meetings arranged through its platform in 2018, to reach its surprising conclusion.

According to the Doodle State of Meetings Report 2019, this costs four of the world’s wealthiest nations around £422 billion every year. While none of the countries in question will be particularly pleased with this, the report claims the chief offender is the US. There, companies waste more than £310 billion in productivity thanks to the 1.89 million years US staff spend in dead-end meetings. Spending similar amounts of time in work – albeit with smaller populations, minimising the numbers somewhat – the UK and Germany similarly see professionals stranded for two hours a week in such meetings.

Cumulatively, bosses are literally wasting millions of years of productivity via poorly organised meetings

These hours add up adding up to an average of 13 days over the course of a year, while the average professional has three meetings each week. Proportionally – professionals feel that two thirds of the meetings they attend are unnecessary, suggesting that the problem could be easily remedied, with major financial benefits. If UK professionals alone were subjected to fewer of these meetings, the economy could benefit to the tune of £45 billion. This is no small amount, while the UK economy remains in the grip of an on-going productivity shortfall.

Delving deeper into the specific personal impact, meanwhile, more than one quarter of respondents said that poorly organised meetings impacted their client relationships. A further 43% felt such gatherings tended to create confusion in the workplace – ironically, since many are likely called to distribute policy and clarify issues surrounding it – as well as 44% who suggested pointless meetings impact their ability to actually do their work. Finally, a third of professionals said they found themselves unable to contribute to the majority of meetings they were in, making their presence aimless, and showing over-invitation is a major waste of time at work.

Gabriele Ottino, CEO of Doodle, commented on the study, “Everyone knows the pains of boring, pointless meetings. They happen every day, but the cumulative effect is frankly shocking! If you aren’t looking to improve the efficiency of meetings at your organisation, you’re wasting an enormous amount of money and time. Many organisations will suffer due to a casual approach to scheduling and running meetings, and in particular the 25% of professionals who have an average of five or more meetings per week.

Related: Just 15% of employees are engaged. The rest lose $7 trillion in productivity.

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Managing the demand for change in project management

16 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

The forward-looking nature of project management means that regardless of the type of project, thorough planning and risk assessment are essential to ensure it is delivered on time, on budget, and in line with the client’s requirements – while delivering the expected results. Consultants Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden elaborate in the article below. 

However, it is important to recognise that in this fast-moving working environment, and with projects increasing in scale and complexity, a degree of change is inevitable. Putting the right mitigation strategies in place early on can provide project managers with much-needed agility, allowing them to respond quickly to any new issues that arise.

When the goalposts move or project managers are issued with an unexpected client request, adopting a holistic approach is essential to ensure that changes are implemented successfully the first time around, reducing the risk of any problems arising in the future. Rather than considering the demand for change in one area of a project in isolation, it is important to conduct a full impact assessment, taking into account any knock-on effects on people, processes, systems and infrastructure. For example, a sudden need to digitalise a key HR process may have implications for recruitment, or the need to upskill existing staff through new training programmes, or both. 

Implementing a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) can also enhance project managers’ ability to spot interdependencies and better manage unforeseen changes. Where a number of projects or programmes are being undertaken simultaneously, this function is particularly useful, providing stakeholders with increased visibility and driving intelligent decision-making. For example, spotting an unexpected delay to a particular project could enable resources to be reallocated across the portfolio at an early stage, helping to drive efficiencies within the business and keeping budgets on track. 

Managing the demand for change in project management

As part of their efforts to make the most of available resources while keeping costs under control, project managers should consider using blended teams wherever possible. By combining the organisation’s existing employees with different skills and experienced project managers, it is easier to ensure that the correct levels of skills and resources are utilised at each stage of a project. Furthermore, this method can provide the additional flexibility needed to respond quickly to new developments without unnecessarily prolonging project timelines or increasing costs. 

It is worth bearing in mind that introducing some mitigation strategies may require an initial cost outlay and, as such, effective communication with stakeholders from the very beginning of a project is key. One example is to allocate a contingency budget to the project. This helps to facilitate the project manager’s ability to address key issues that require unplanned spend, without the need to undergo a time-consuming budget approval process. By educating all involved parties about the inevitability of change during projects, it is possible to put buffers in place, both financially and in terms of the project timeline. Over the course of a project, this should enable project managers to react quickly to change and take effective action without compromising on the timescales and delivery of client objectives. 

Likewise, where project delivery is reliant upon large and diverse teams, clearly communicating the impact of unexpected changes, and the required response, is also vital to ensure everyone is on the same page and disruption to day-to-day processes is kept to a minimum. When curveballs to project delivery occur, a failure to brief the team on how these should be addressed could also have a significant impact on levels of motivation and morale, which in turn has the potential to have a negative impact on productivity across a project. 

While meticulous forward planning will always be an essential element of project management, it’s equally important to recognise that to a certain extent, change is unavoidable. The ability to respond effectively to new developments as they occur is therefore vital. By making change a central part of discussions with stakeholders and clearly communicating with all parties on a programme, project managers can take new issues in their stride while continuing to deliver exceptional results for clients. 

Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden are principal consultants at business change consultancy Entec Si.