I just did some really rather depressing calculations on meeting time.

Scenario:

10 people, 7 projects, weekly meeting of one hour.

Let’s pretend that 25 minutes are spent on general announcements that are genuinely useful to everyone.

The remaining 35 minutes are spent on the 7 different projects. That’s 5 minutes each. The project you’re on is obviously important to you, so that’s 5 minutes more of useful stuff.

The remaining 30 minutes are spent on 6 projects that you’re not working on. Sure, it may be interesting, but on average proably not very useful. Let’s be generous and say one minute of each of the other projects’s time is useful to you. That gives us 36 minutes (or 60%) of useful time. That’s 40% of the hour that is wasted.

Multiplied by 10 people, that’s 4 hours that’ll never come back.

Ok, let’s say the team grows: Five more people, two more projects and half an hour.

We keep the 25 minutes of general announcements.

Then there’ll be some introductory stuff. Let’s say 11 minutes. This is useful to the 5 new people and not at all to the 10 old people.

So now we have 54 minutes left to be divided across 9 projects. That’s 6 minutes each. I.e. 6 useful minutes from your own project, 8*1 useful minutes for other people’s projects and 8*5 useless minutes from other people’s projects.

Useful time:

10 old people * 39 minutes of useful time = 6:30 (43%)

5 new people * 50 minutes of useful time = 4:10 (56%)

That’s a total of 10:40 (10 hours, 40 minutes) of useful time, but 22 and a half hours spent. That’s translates into an efficiency of 48% and it’ll only get worse as the team grows, the project list grows and the meeting gets longer.

Why do we keep doing this?