"We'll just give it a few more minutes," announced the meeting's chairman as the clock clicked on. Those who had been punctual continued conversations, leafed through documents, or stared into space. The chairman fidgeted, watched the door, and finally began the meeting minutes after the last participant straggled in.

On any given workday in the USA, between eleven and twenty million business meetings take place. Yet participants often regard meetings as timewasters, as productivity usurpers, as activities that deliver too little benefit for the cost they extract.


They mention late starts, late endings, and a host of other frustrating circumstances. "It's just not good business," one participant fumed as she waited for latecomers. "Why punish the punctual? When we start late, we either end late or leave too much unfinished. Either consequence interferes with our ability to plan and complete our work."

Elsewhere, another participant wondered why his organization doesn't give more thought to meeting purposes. Although his division designates topics for meetings, those who attend seldom know exactly what goals need to be accomplished.

Colleagues at another company discovered that each had left a meeting with a different understanding of issue resolution, throwing into conflict their planned next steps and deliverables.

When time, purpose, and resolution are not emphasized, meeting participants are likely to lose effectiveness as well as interest. And while most organizations claim to value efficiency, clarity, good time-management and communication skills, they don't always apply that value to the meetings that consume so much of the workday.

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