Conference calls: cost saving or addiction?


I looked at my calendar some time ago. Did some maths and was slightly shocked. More than 75% of my week was various conference calls. Then I picked up my head, had a good look around the office and realised, that I am not the only one. Welcome to the conference-call-mad-world.

How did it happen?

I wish I could say procurement had nothing to do with it. Maybe it did; maybe it did not. Time and technology progress brought innovations for the business and the way how people communicate. And, surely, there must have been a smart indirect procurement manager who picked it up as a savings opportunity. A lot of travel policies these days have instructions to think before travelling if the face to face meeting could be replaced by a virtual one. Everyone understands how to estimate the cost of face to face meetings – or, at least, the part of the costs which show up later on invoices. Therefore, being able to swap it for a solution which, at the first look, costs only a fraction of all previous costs, seemed like an amazing idea.

The side effects

Everything in life is relative. On one hand – high costs of the meetings are not desirable for businesses. On the other hand – it had a very big advantage: realising the price of the meetings, people were preparing for them much better, they used the meeting time much more productively and they used to appoint them much more responsibly. Removing this “cost barrier” brought a whole bunch of side effects:

  • People started having virtual calls right, left and centre, without any good reason or purpose – “it does not cost anything” …
  • People started inviting whoever they can remember into the calls – “it does not cost anything” …
  • People “forgot” or ran out of time to prepare for the calls: “we will work it out during the call – it does not cost anything” …
  • People do not follow up on action plans after calls – “we can always arrange next call to discuss what were the outcomes supposed to be from the previous call… it does not cost anything” …
  • Not to mention “pre-call calls”. You know, when you need to agree what you will be talking during the actual call…
  • People stopped doing actual work, because they are… busy with calls…

People got addicted. And when it comes to conference calling, there is no such a thing as “light drug”.

The outcomes

Meetings with no decisions or action points. No decisions or deliverables or actions outside of the calls, because there is no more “outside of the calls” time left… Next level multitasking work, while being on mute. The whole generation of office staff, addicted to conference calls. It sometimes really feels like there are many people, who crave for conference calls just like for a dose of drugs… Oh, and most importantly – costs. That not-so-smart indirect procurement manager, who claimed savings some time ago, did not think about everything. Now the costs of inefficiently used (or, as you might say, efficiently wasted) time are tens, if not hundreds, of times bigger than travel costs were in the first place.


  • Put down the phone. Seriously. You are reading an article while “listening” to the conference call. It means the call is not that important. Put down the phone.
  • Cancel a call, if it does not have any agenda attached to it. Or if the objective is not clear.
  • Cancel a call, if you were not given the contents or material in advance of the call. Everyone should know the subject before the call. The call is to discuss the subject – not to read the slides.
  • Reduce the frequency of all regular calls twice.
  • Review the list of invitees. Remove people, who only need to be informed of the outcomes – they can read 5 sentences summary on an email.
  • If people are not participating – they should not be on the call.
  • Consider all other work efficiency tools: task management systems, document management systems, team cooperation tools. Meetings and calls have to be there to discuss issues, alternative options (which are analysed in advance) and make decisions.
  • Consider meeting efficiency KPIs. I am not joking – a company I used to work for, had a tool to monitor how many action points were agreed during the meeting and what kind of decicions were made. Big deviations from “norm” were questioned.

Has your calendar turned manic with conference calls? Are you in a closed circuit and do not have any ideas how to get out of it? Share your questions in the comments below and I think our colleagues on social networks will be able to help! Thanks for reading. Even if you did it while listening to someone boring speaking on the other end of another conference call…

Conference calls: cost saving or addiction?

Get the basics right. Or else – life will play bowling with you and you are not going to win

Julie Andrews in The sound of music was singing that “a very good place to start / when you read you begin with ABC…” In our jobs, we begin with basics. Or, at least, we should. Many of us (of course, NOT (!!!) you and me. The Others) get distracted and attracted by smart sounding words, strategically filling gaps with meaningless sentences, Important Projects, executive slides populating, you-name-it-things. All supercalifragilisticexpialidocious things. Because simple is no longer in fashion. Because simple is not executive enough. Because simple does not make you look “high society”.

Needless to say, it is all wrong to me. Most important part is to get the basics right. My only sin, I have to admit, that sometimes I want it done fast. Really fast. Almost to skip it and jump to those other – “important” – things. The other day, I was reminded the lesson, that it takes time to get things done right. And if you rush through, you have very high chances of getting things wrong. Really wrong.

It was 7.56 pm. I was running to catch the train in Euston to go home. Did not have pre-booked tickets. The day started just before 4 am, the last meal I had was 9 hours ago and I was exhausted. On the way up from the tube I quickly opened train ticket app, found a train at 8 pm. I picked my eyes onto the screens in the station – 8 pm train is on platform 15! You can imagine there was some running involved. There were no ticket inspectors – everyone was already on-board. I get onto the train, put the earphones in and dive into the virtual world on the screen of my phone. Train starts moving and I send a text to my family with estimated time of arrival.

10 minutes in, conductor comes over and asks to show the ticket. He takes the phone. Silence begins. Then I realise, that something is not right. Pick up my eyes and see the conductor. His face does not promise anything good. That’s right, I am on the wrong train. I started laughing. Because “it never happens to me” myth is shattered into pieces so quickly and harshly, that I do not even bother picking up the pieces. Strike #1.

I got out of the train 100 miles away from my home, on completely other side. 21.35. Only to hear the announcement, that there has been a fatality and there will be no more trains coming in or out of that station that day anymore. Strike #2.

Little chaos in the station, bigger chaos in the head, trying to figure out what to do next. “Get a snack!” – my brain screamed – “you are not you, when you are hungry!”. Easier said than done: everything is closed by this time. I find a snack machine. With my luck that day, it steals two pounds before giving me the so much needed piece of chocolate. Strike #3.

I like Virgin. Their customer service is great – they got a taxi for me to take me home. I get into the car, tell the driver where to go. We start moving when he informs me, that he desperately needs fuel and he will stop at the first station. Which he does. Except that the station is not serving any fuel. Closed. At this point I burst into laughter. Somehow the driver did not think it was funny. I told him about my luck that day and he then decided it was even less funny. Strike #4.

There was enough fuel to reach the next station. What else could go wrong? Well, just when we were to join back the highway, we saw nice yellow signs “ROAD WORKS”… By now the driver was looking suspiciously at me. He said “if something more happens, you can take the car and go”… We did 15 miles de-tour. Strike #5.

5 hours late, after midnight, I was home. Having revised the lesson of getting the basics right the hard way. The lessons I had to repeat that day:

  • Exhaustion and overworking only lead to mistakes.
  • If you get the basics wrong, the chance of further failures only increases. Never ever underestimate the importance not to only properly do basic things, but also the quality level of it.
  • Do not give up. Never give up. Things can and will go wrong. As long as you have more persistence than Mr. Murphy and his laws, you will win.

Happy Friday Everyone! Let’s finish the work week properly as basics, so that next Monday does not turn into chaos!


Get the basics right. Or else – life will play bowling with you and you are not going to win

Make Procurement Great Again

Does it not frustrate you, when you think you are doing everything that’s best out there, and you still end up in conflict situations with other business stakeholders?

You implement best tools – you hear noise, until people stop using them.

You write best-in-class policies – and the Pareto works against you: 80% of time people do not comply (versus anticipated 20%).

You achieve “improvement” in processes, that procurement controls – but overall business results are worsening.

You hire best negotiators – and they leave the business faster than you manage to pay recruitment bills.

Again and again, you find ways how to “make procurement great again”, but nothing seems to satisfy the business… I was talking about ways to assess the situation and adapt procurement strategy to meet the business needs in a conference and am sharing the material here.

I would gladly share working files and templates to those willing to use them. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing.

Make Procurement Great Again