Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

“The most painful problem in business.”  That’s how Patrick Lencioni describes ineffective meetings.  Contrary to what the title may lead you to think, the author does not advocate banning meetings.  Far from it.  He teaches us how to remake meeting behaviour by telling the engaging – and excruciating – story of Yip Software.  Here’s an excerpt:

Casey McDaniel had never been so nervous in his life.  In just ten minutes, The Meeting, as it would forever be known, would begin. Casey had every reason to believe that his performance over the next two hours would determine the fate of his career, his financial future, and the company he had built from scratch.

Yip Software transformed itself from a mediocre company to a dynamic organization with backbone by changing their executive meeting habits.  Sound farfetched?  Ask your non-executive staff if their leadership is talking about the right things in their meetings.  I’ll bet they know.  When a senior leadership team fills its meeting agendas with minutiae instead of hard-hitting business issues that require decisions, that filters down into the entire organization and shows up in the form of productivity problems and conflicting priorities.

The executives find 3 critical elements are missing from their meetings:

  • Drama and conflict Instead of saying what needed to be said, they let politics and details get in the way. 
  • Contextual structure and rhythmMeetings were driven by the needs of the executive team instead of the needs of the business.
  • Energized follow throughBecause their meetings were painful and boring, the executive team lacked the necessary spark to set a dynamic pace for the rest of the organization.

Contextual structure and rhythm is all about how often to meet and what gets covered.  The methodology is not dissimilar to Verne Harnish’ recommendations in Mastering The Rockefeller Habits.  In fact, he is mentioned in the book.  Below is the executive meeting schedule.

The Four Meetings

5 minutes.
Share daily schedules and activities
  • Don’t sit down.
  • Keep it administrative.
  • Don’t cancel even when some people can’t be there.
Weekly Tactical:
45-90 minutes.
Review weekly activities and metrics, and resolve tactical obstacles and issues.
  • Don’t set agenda until after initial reporting.
  • Postpone strategic discussions.
Monthly Strategic or Ad Hoc Strategic:
2-4 hours.
Discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success.
  • Limit to one or two topics.
  • Prepare and do research.
  • Engage in good conflict.
Quarterly Off-site Review:
1-2 days.
Review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, key personnel, team development.
  • Get out of office.
  • Focus on work; limit social activities.
  • Don’t overstructure or overburden the schedule.

Other posts you might enjoy about holding more effective meetings:

Customer Centric versus Customer Driven (there is an often undiagnosed meeting problem that goes along with the customer-driven scenario)

Great Meetings Are Hard Work

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