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Better Late than Never?

Optimize Blog - February 10, 2014 - 0 comments

Some time ago we wrote a paper entitled “You Say You’re Busy and I Say ‘So what?’” which in a nutshell stated that the world is not about being busy, it’s about being productive. Saying “I’m busy” is meaningless and we really shouldn’t care.
To follow on from that paper we should mention the serial late people in the world – those that keep us waiting. And it is not that we lead ‘busy lives’. That’s a given, we all do, and it’s a cop out to use that as an excuse. It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late.
In recent years it seems that a meeting set to start at 9 am, for some people means in the general vicinity of any time which starts with the number ‘9’ – like 9.30 for example.  People drift in at 9.10 or 9.20, or even later. And they smile warmly at the waiting group, as they unwrap their bacon sandwich, apparently totally unconcerned that others have been there since five to nine, prepared and ready to start.
10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish individual who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted – while he keeps everyone waiting because he did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. How much has that cost the business? Perhaps the tardy individual should be sent an invoice.
And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration.
And often these ‘latecomers’ are people who have requested the meeting in the first place, are asking for your help, or are selling something. We smile politely but seethe behind the mask of pleasantries.
This type of behaviour is reaching epidemic proportions and the associated cost to a company is enormous. The collateral damage throughout the organization is also substantial. Things that needed to get done don’t because meetings ran over. People have to stay late to accommodate those that couldn’t get their act together and stress levels soar creating an unhealthy environment and culture.
It’s actually a simple thing. Respect the clock, respect each other and respect the organization. Do what you said you would do and meet at the appointed time.
Now we hear you cry “but my day is full of meetings!” and indeed we see plenty of this. Your 9 am meeting finishes at 10 am when your next meeting is due to start and yet it is in another part of the building and you have to stop off at your office to pick up the next meeting’s minutes……you cannot help but be late and the spiral continues.
Here are a couple of tips. Restrict your meetings as an organization to 50 minutes maximum or where meetings are necessarily longer than this, ensure that they end ten minutes before the hour. Second, plan your day – take ten minutes or so at the start of the day to collate all the materials for the meetings you have in your schedule (you might even want to read the minutes of each so that you avoid that ‘surprise’ moment when an action point was allocated to you in your absence….). Third have agendas for all meetings and refuse requests to attend meetings where the person inviting you has failed to draw one up – why should you spend 30 minutes of your own time for someone else’s meeting when that individual couldn’t find two minutes of their own time to create and send an agenda?
Finally hold each other accountable and call those poor behaviours. Serial tardiness is not acceptable and the individuals concerned should understand the consequences of their actions. Quiescence is acquiescence – if you don’t speak up, lateness becomes an accepted norm.

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