Sorry, You’ve Used Up All of Your Meeting Budget

Posted 01.12.2011

Recently, I spoke about leadership to a group of newly promoted senior managers. Like just about every other leadership group I speak to everyone in the room agreed that one of their biggest challenges is getting any work done other than going to meetings. One fellow diplomatically noted that his company’s culture is very collaborative and, as such, the tendency is to invite lots of people to meetings so they all have a chance to provide input.  With such large invitation lists, it frequently happens that a lot of people don’t even know why they’re in the meeting.

Faremeter This manager had an interesting idea when he said, “I wish there were a meter running so people could see what the total cost of the meeting is in the salaries that are represented in the room.”  That got me thinking about how you might implement a system to make sure that the time managers and executives spend in meetings actually adds value. 

I think I’ve come up with something that could work.  Every manager gets an annual meeting budget.  It would work like this.  

Each year during budget planning season managers would have to negotiate for the amount of total salary expense they’re allowed to burn in meetings over the next 12 months.  When they use up all of their budget, they’re not allowed to call any more meetings unless they can negotiate an increase in their budget.

For instance, let’s say that your budget for meetings this year is $50,000.  According to, the average manager’s salary in the United States is $78,866.  If we divide that by the standard work year of 2080 hours (not that I know anyone who actually works the standard but that’s another post), we get an average hourly managerial rate of $37.92.  So, if your annual budget for meetings is $50K, that means you get to use around 1,318 hours of other managers’ time in your meetings this year.  You could go crazy with your budget and have a day and a half offsite for 100 people and use it all up at once.   If you have a team of ten people you can have 50 two hour staff meetings over the course of the year and still have a little budget left over.  Or, you can mix and match and stretch your budget anyway you like.

The point is when your budget runs out, you can’t call any more meetings for the rest of the year.

What difference do you think it would make to productivity and thoughtful management if organizations actually implemented an annual meeting budget for every manager and executive?  What changes might we see in the way people work together?   Would meetings become fewer and more efficient?  Wonder what it would mean for productive collaboration?  Would we see managers negotiating with each other to determine who was going to call the meeting and eat the budget expense?  Would we see them coordinating their efforts more or less effectively?

What do you think?  Would this work or not?  What works in your organization to keep meetings from taking over everyone’s life?