Originally created 07/01/00

Report: Meetings wasteful



Wasting time in meetings is rampant, executives from some of the nation's largest companies said in a recent survey by Accountemps.

The temporary staffing service for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals said executives waste 7.8 hours a week in needless, formal discussions.

Local executives said they attempt to make meetings as productive as possible and technology has been the biggest factor in improving the quality of meetings.

Merle Temple, district manager of BellSouth, said, "Technology has been our salvation."

Five years ago, he was spending as many as eight hours a week - the equivalent of an entire work day - in meetings.

A meeting at the Atlanta office five years ago would have been an all-day trip, based on 5´ hours travel and four hours of meetings.

"You would have wasted a long day when you could have done it better," he said. "Unless it's essential to brainstorm a project, we try to limit our windshield time for managers."

BellSouth now conducts a majority of its formal discussions through conference phones, video conference calls and online conferences, according to Mr. Temple.

"We use the tools that we sell to the public. We practice what we preach," he said.

Bill Botham, public relations manager for Comcast, said he spends plenty of time in meetings but does not consider them a waste of time.

"We have varying levels of meetings. We don't always bring everyone in from all sites. It's necessary personnel only," Mr. Botham said.

He said top-level management at Comcast meet once a week, other managers and supervisors meet every other week. Staff-wide meetings occur only quarterly.

Including appointments with outside, nonprofit organizations, Mr. Botham said he spends 10 to 12 hours a week in meetings.

As with BellSouth, Mr. Botham says technology has improved the quality of meetings at Comcast.

"Technology has helped us cut down on the length and number of meetings. E-mail is a huge help, and we regularly do teleconferencing. Our meetings are as quick, painless and efficient as possible," he said.

Tom O'Rourke, plant manager of International Flavors and Fragrances, said he also tries to keep weekly meetings to a minimum.

He attends four or five meetings a week, with at least half being short meetings, and the company has only one site-wide meeting per quarter.

Reach Jennifer Bishop at (706) 823-3217.