Wasted Time

Foundry managers justifiably become irate when they learn their best molders, core makers, or grinders are wasting hours each week. On the other hand, as I visit foundries I see hours being wasted by the highest paid employees in the foundry, and the managers don’t seem to care at all. In fact, the managers usually cause the wasted time.

Who’s wasting all this time and on what? The who are the management of the foundry, usually the highest paid people in the place. The what are meetings. 

Not all meetings are a waste of time nor is all the time in the meetings wasted, but everyone who has attended meetings knows of the wasted time. Is there anyone who goes to meetings that hasn’t periodically wondered, “What in the world does this have to do with me?” Is there anyone who attends meetings that hasn’t sat waiting for a meeting to start because the key players didn’t show up on time? Or, is there anyone who hasn’t come away from some meetings wondering, “What did that accomplish?”

If you look at the typical foundry meeting, they usually have 5 to 10 people attending and last between a half hour and hour. If you assume an average wage of $50 per hour (a very conservative estimate if fringe benefits are considered), that means each short meeting costs between $125 and $500. How many meetings are called in your foundry?

I don’t assume these few words will stop all meetings, nor should they. Meetings can be important tools for improving foundry operations, but they need to be used judiciously and efficiently. I’ve found three rules very helpful in making meetings less wasteful.

Rule 1 – Know Why the Meeting is Being Held

There are all sorts of reasons for holding meetings. They may be held to make sure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing, to make sure that everyone hears the same thing, or to decide what is going to be done next and by whom. In fact, there are just about as many reasons for having meetings as there are meetings. 

Wasted time can be reduced if everyone who attends the meeting knows why the meeting is being held. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has gone to a meeting called by the boss expecting it to be about one thing and have been completely surprised when it was about something different. I wasted time preparing something that wasn’t needed, and everyone’s time was wasted in the meeting because we hadn’t prepared what was needed.

The need for the attendees to know what the meeting is about seems so obvious that even bringing it up seems to be a waste of print. Unfortunately, I still see it all the time.

Rule 2 – Don’t Hold the Meeting

While there are many reasons to hold meetings, there are also many reasons not to hold them. If you need more reasons than the hourly rates of the participants, here are some things to consider.  

If the objective of the meeting isn’t realistic, why bother? If you’re holding a meeting to come up with a plan to eliminate all scrap castings, why not throw in solving world hunger at the same time? Your odds of accomplishing your objective will be about the same.

If you’re holding a meeting so that everyone will hear the same thing at the same time, why not write a memo? Even though people hear the same thing at the same time, they don’t really hear the same thing. Having the information in writing leaves no doubt.

In my experience, the biggest time wasters are the meetings held regularly to keep everyone up-to-date on what everyone else is doing. If a department was two weeks behind yesterday, should I expect them to be caught up today? Usually someone has a problem effecting only one or two of the attendees; consequently, a long discussion evolves with input coming from people who don’t know the full problem, and the rest of the people get to think about what they should be doing.

Wouldn’t it be far less time consuming to develop a form that everyone keeps updated so that everyone can see the status? If the boss detects a problem, he can discuss corrective actions with the involved people and not waste everyone else’s time. 

Rule 3: Make Sure the Reason for the Meeting is Accomplished.  

Of course, the biggest time waster happens when a meeting doesn’t accomplish its objective. It’s a danger with all types of meetings, but most frequently with meetings held to develop a course of action. How many scrap meetings have you attended where the same job was discussed without any real results?

It takes discipline setting the goals and running a meeting for it to achieve the desired result. There is always the temptation to be diverted by some current issue instead of staying focused on the desired objective. If the meeting is going to be productive, the person running it must keep the people on task. If not, the time for the meeting will be gone without the desired results or the meeting will drag on and on. 

Whoever is in charge should review the outcome of every meeting. Did the meeting accomplish the reason it was held? If it did, who says so? If someone other than you ran the meeting and is reporting to you, don’t let their ego cloud their judgment about its accomplishments. If you ran it, don’t let yours.

Some meetings won’t achieve the desired goal. If it happens frequently, see rule 2.

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