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”.
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…