Value Add

Alan BelniakGeneral1 Comment

If you ever see anyone fall asleep, it's time to end the meeting.

If you ever see anyone fall asleep, it's time to end the meeting.

It’s a pretty over-used phrase nowadays, isn’t it?  I admit: I use it, too.  Let’s dissect it for a moment, and apply it to work.  Simply re-shuffle the words (not the letters; otherwise, you’d get some pretty good anagrams), and you get “add value”.  That means, whatever you’re doing, attending, creating, etc. inherently has value, and you’re adding to it.  Stop for a moment and let that soak in.

Shifting gears for the moment, have you ever gone to a meeting, sat in the back, and half-paid attention?  Maybe you had your Blackberry out, answering a few messages?  At the end of the meeting, you walk out and can barely cobble together the real reason you were there, or the list of action items (assuming the facilitator even created a list of action items!).  These kinds of meetings do not have much value at all.  By the definition above, then, you’re not a value-add.  Further, if you are only half-involved, why attend in the first place?

The point I’m trying to make is this: if you show up, then show up.  Contribute.  Actively.  I admit, I’ve been guilty of this in the past.  But I’ve gotten a lot better, and am improving still.  Don’t simply go because you were invited.  Don’t go because the topic semi-interests you.  Don’t go because you went to the last one.  We’ve all got something else we could be doing.  Go to the meeting if you can play an active role.  Call or facilitate a meeting only if there’s a purpose to call one.  If you only need to go to push information out, write a document or prepare some slides, and post them on a wiki, blog, or e-mail them.  You just saved everyone 50 minutes.

When I was a consultant, a friend of mine and I often used a joke when we saw several co-workers gathered together, chins firmly placed between thumb and forefinger, brows furrowed.  There was genuine discussion happening, for sure.  Many of these people were senior, and consequently had much higher billing rates than the junior people.  When working in a consulting firm, it’s hard to not think of every 15 minutes as some portion of some client’s money getting spent.  One time, my friend walked by a table with eight people there, all billing at some of the top rates of our firm.  We exchanged glances, raised eyebrows, and said quietly to one another, “gee – expensive meeting, huh?”  I’m no longer in the consulting industry, but the joke still applies.

Meetings are good when

  • there’s a real purpose
  • you want to get something accomplished
  • you need synchronous (as opposed to asynchronous) communication
  • you can contribute toward a positive outcome

Meetings are not good when

  • one-third or more of the people don’t really need to be there
  • one-third of the people don’t contribute
  • you feel like you have to attend, though don’t really know why you are going

Seth Godin offers a related kind of thinking, so rather than re-stating, go read it here.

In summary: Think of the rough, equivalent hourly rate of everyone you invite to your meeting.  Over the course of 60 minutes, you just ‘charged’ your company that total amount.  Did your company get its money’s worth? If not, think twice about calling that follow-up meeting.

Am I telling it like it is?  Let me know in the comments section.  Am I totally full of it?  Let me know in the comments section.

(image courtesy of Sean Locke)