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While it is daily routine for most people in office, including CEOs, to respond to emails and attend meetings, it seems they are losing thousands of hours every year on these chores.
A study by Bain & Company showed that today’s top executives spend hours on the average 30,000 external communications they receive yearly, up from 1000 in the 1970s, but without good results.
In addition, they devote more than two days each week to meetings with three or more co-workers. A meeting that starts just five minutes late costs a company 8% of that meeting – a loss that would be untenable in any other resource category.
Moreover the meetings are often scheduled “just because,” and dysfunctional meeting behaviour is on the rise.
Greg Caimi, partner and co-author of the time management study, said the mismanagement of time was due to companies not monitoring employee time as tightly as other resources such as capital.
“If time really was money, and accounted for in the same way, many companies would be running huge deficits. Organisations need to audit their time expenditures and put in place tough controls in order to stop the hemorrhaging of an increasingly valuable asset,” he says.
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The study also found the the problems of dysfunctional meetings and excessive electronic communication in large organisation are cultural as much as systemic.
“Most time management advice focuses on individual actions – be choosy with meetings, rein in your email box. But this advice sometimes goes against your company’s culture: Ignore emails and meeting invitations and you risk alienating your colleagues – or your boss,” said Michael Mankins, leader of Bain’s organisation practice.
Bain highlighted eight deadly sins companies make in time management, and ways to tackle those:
- Muddled company-wide agendas: Make them clear and selective so all know how to use extra time and what tasks can be shelved with penalty.
- “Time is free” approach to scheduling: Create zero-based time budget and manage organisational time as rigorously as capital assets.
- “Let’s start a project”mindset: Require a business case for any new project.
- Thickening middle: Simplify the organisation. More managers and layers robs time and creates more work for others.
- “Anyone Can Schedule”: Create a line of authority for who can call and set meetings.
- Decision-making or decision-murky? Manage decision-making – not the matrix for it – by standardising the process.
- “Meeting time is free time: Establish discipline by requiring clear agendas, advance preparation, on-time starts. When possible, finish early.
- “Where’d the time go?” Track meeting time, attendance and email volume to assess productivity. What is not monitored cannot be measured.