cartoon, problem communicationI used to work in both manufacturing and in business planning. In these roles, if I’d gone to my boss and proposed a new manufacturing line that made 50% scrap or proposed to develop a new product that only worked half the time, I think I would, quite rightly, have been fired.

But in communication we routinely accept 50% scrap as the norm:

  • • People completing our virtual teams benchmarking survey tell us they spend on average two days per week in meetings and 50% is relevant
  • • research on people attending conference calls and web meetings shows that 25% are absent and a further 25% are “multitasking” – so again 50% are either not there or are not paying attention.
  • • In e-mails is worse, an average of 75% of e-mails are irrelevant to the recipient.

We wouldn’t accept this appalling level of waste and cost in any other areas of business. A business with 1,000 managers and professional people wasting a day a week on unnecessary cooperation, and communication incurs a cost of around $20 million per year of completely unnecessary work. You can do the maths for the size of your own business.

But the cost of solving this problem is not high. It’s about mindset and some simple practices and tools.

If you’re happy with millions of pounds of unnecessary work and the frustration of sitting in unnecessary meetings and dealing with pointless e-mails then you’ve come to accept that scrap is normal.

In manufacturing, I learned that scrap is an important indicator of problems with the process and a signal that we need to do things differently.

The same lean management techniques that worked so well throughout our supply chains can be applied to the way people work together – not just to drive out cost, but also to improve job satisfaction and motivation by increasing the relevance and engagement of communication. It’s a real win-win.

If you’d like to find more about our “speed lead” campaigns to cut out unnecessary work, please contact us.

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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