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John is in Las Vegas today speaking at the Association for Medical Imaging Management’s (AHRA) annual meeting and exposition.  His speech is entitled: State of Healthcare in the US: Navigating Through Unprecedented Change.


LAS VEGAS — “We get paid by the meeting.”

That was the slightly sarcastic lament of a hospital Vice President I know.

meetings“We go to meeting after meeting on the same issue and the only outcome of each meeting is to schedule another meeting,” said a frustrated manager at a regional health system in the Northeast.

If you want to kill time, as the old saying goes, the meeting is the perfect weapon.

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If companies want to save real money, more than $200 billion in lost time and wasted talent, the research suggests, cut down on the number of meetings

While it may make sense to base some worker’s pay on an incremental formula — say airline pilots and flight attendants whose pay is based, in part, on the number of flight segments they complete — paying executives and managers for the number of meetings they attend is a laughable idea unless, of course, these meetings produce some secret revenue stream no one knows about.

In thinking about this subject I ran across some interesting research from Wolf Management Consultants, a Chicago-based firm started by a former hospital AR consultant.

  • 11 million meetings occur each day in the US
  • Meetings, on average, consume 31 hours of a professional’s time each month, almost four days
  • Most professions attend 61.8 meetings per month
  • 91 percent admit to daydreaming during meetings
  • 75 percent admitted to having brought other work to the meeting
  • 30 percent of professionals admitted to dozing during meetings

Author/speaker/coach Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called Death By Meeting, he says that bad meetings not only exact a toll on the attendees but can contribute to human anguish in the form of anger, lethargy, cynicism, and even in the form of lower self-esteem.

No one denies that some meetings are necessary.  The problem is that there are way too many bad meetings in corporate America, that includes health systems, hospitals, etc, and these bad meetings drain millions of dollars from the enterprise in terms of poor productivity.  It is one of the many hidden expenses, similar to the high cost of employee turnover, never reported on a monthly financial reports.

Slack, a communications service for business, recently took a radical approach to excessive and bad meetings — they cancelled every recurring meeting within the company.  Said Co-Founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield,  ”People can go to work every day for a year and not really get anything done because they’re just doing the things that they felt they were supposed to be doing. We probably do need some of the ones we canceled, and they’ll come back — but we’ll wait until we actually need them again.”

I know a lot of hospital executives  and managers who would welcome that move.