Hey, whatcha working on? How's that project coming?

We've all prepared for these questions in upcoming meetings. We work hard, and we want people to know it. Nothing wrong there.

Well, except maybe that preparing for those questions actually takes longer than the work we do.

Ah, the proverbial status meeting. Something that should die -- now, some say.

Clarizen, an online project management software provider, thinks this way. Of course, their product is a good replacement for the "status meeting," they think. But the San Mateo, Calif.-based tech company did produce some food for thought in its new survey about status meetings.

8 Wasted Hours

Essentially, the Harris Poll survey found workers spend one day a week preparing for -- and attending -- status meetings. Four hours of prep. Four hours talking about what you're working on. Or, a good 20 percent of the 40-hour work week.

Four hours of back-logging what you've been doing. And four hours of answering, "Well, so I came into the office, fired up my computer..." (Yes, I'm thinking about the Office Space scenes, too.)

Status meetings, researchers found, have an adverse effect and ultimately undermine worker productivity. Lengthy preparation requirements and distracted, multi-tasking participants also lead to killing productivity. The survey also found that employee preparation for status meetings “take longer than the meeting itself," and more than one-third of those who attend status meetings thought they were a complete waste of their time, Clarizen officials found.

"Status meetings -- via email, a meeting, a PowerPoint deck -- kill productivity," Lori Bush Shepard, vice president of corporate marketing for Clarizen, told CMSWire. "Information workers spend countless hours gathering information, preparing and presenting about their work rather than doing their work."

Every information professional values knowing what their colleagues are doing and how it will impact their work, Bush Shepard said.

"We all want to know the status," she added, "but we don’t have the time to waste building materials just to convey it. It should be conveyed by the work execution process."

Making Things Better

Naturally, the collaboration software folks like Clarizen will push software to solve the problem. And surely, there are plenty of options there.

Generally, though, this is a people problem. Avoiding meetings with software is one solution, but there are other ways to make meetings better, and more productive.

Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes had some cool ideas when he blogged about it last fall. Do you even have to meet, he asked? Can things be solved elsewhere?

Invite only the relevant people. Take notes that document concrete actions. Keep them short, and even allow people to walk out after a half-hour if they feel they can be more productive. (this one's kinda questionable: "Hey, CEO, what you're saying doesn't interest me so I am departing now.").

Inside the Numbers 

The Harris Poll included an online survey in the US from Nov. 20-24 and reached 2,066 adults ages 18 and older (among which 1,005 are employed). Clarizen also conducted a similar Harris Survey poll in 2011.

Three years later, the results showed:

  • 60 percent of status meeting attendees reported that preparing for a status meeting takes longer than the meeting itself
  • 46 percent of employed Americans would rather do any unpleasant activity than sit in a status meeting, with 18 percent opting for a trip to the DMV and 17 percent choosing to watch paint dry
  • 35 percent of status meeting attendees called status meetings “a waste of my time"

Clarizen's Bush Shepard said organizations need a process where issues are apparent in progress and status is always available.

"Managers can assist -- or intervene -- when an issue arises rather than later," she said. "Managers can reallocate resources and change timelines as work requires. And status meetings transform into brainstorming and collaboration sessions where information workers stimulate each other through dialogue to best approach the projects. Build visibility into the work process and not only will productivity go up, but this new data will allow you to plan for future work and devote resources more effectively."

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by bettyx1138.