I'm not sure this study needed to be done, but I'm glad the folks at Bain Consulting did it anyway. The precise numbers are dispiriting enough to ring true:
We recently studied 2,300 managers at an industrial company with 14,000 employees around the globe. As a group, these individuals sent and received more than 260,000 emails a month, just with one other.
On top of that, the typical manager devoted eight hours each week to meetings—for senior managers the figure was more like 20 hours—and the volume was growing. During the average meeting, about a quarter of attendees sent at least two emails every 30 minutes.
So we send and receive too many emails, have too many meetings, those meetings go on too long, and we send emails to each other during those meetings.
Seems about right:
In the industrial company we studied, for example, operating expenses were growing faster than sales—a sure sign of trouble. A survey showed that only 18% of employees thought that the company’s decision processes led to good decisions. As one respondent said, “There are far too many people involved with the decision making process…too many meetings and too much email being circulated.” And this company isn’t alone. Typically, people in a connected enterprise are aware of what’s going on, and many believe they should have a say in whatever issue is at hand. But no one seems to know who’s really responsible for decisions and actions.
I've often wondered how much better some meetings would be if every laptop was shut and every phone switched off:
When a new CEO took over a struggling software company, he learned that people in the organization universally complained about unfocused and frustrating meetings, despite vast numbers of elaborate PowerPoint presentations. The new CEO quickly instituted a no-presentation, working-session-only rule, with printed documents distributed and no laptops allowed. The leadership team almost immediately noticed a change in energy level, focus and meeting effectiveness.
Clearly, after two decades of unbridled growth in communications and connectivity, there's only one thing to do: we need to stop connecting and stop communicating.