death by meeting

This past week on vacation I took advantage of some down time to catch up on some reading and even had the opportunity to go back through one of my favorite books about meetings. Yes…a book about meetings. No, I’m not crazy. I’ve had the tendency to despise meetings just as much as the next guy. I mean who wants to go to another meeting right? But Patrick Lencioni’s “Death by Meeting” has become one of my go to resources when it comes to meetings. Not only is it full of great concepts and ideas but; they’re accessible and applicable for real world work place solutions. Below is an overview of the four kinds of meetings that Patrick Lencioni creatively discusses in his book Death by Meeting.

Meeting Type: Daily Check-in
Time Required: 5 minutes
Purpose and Format: Share daily schedules and activities
Keys to Success: Don’t sit down. Keep it administrative. Don’t cancel even when some people can’t be there.

Meeting Type: Weekly Tactical
Time Required: 45-90 minutes
Purpose and Format: Review weekly activities and metrics, and resolve tactical obstacles and issues
Keys to Success: Don’t set agenda until after initial reporting. Postpone strategic discussions.

Meeting Type: Monthly Strategic
Time Required: 2-4 hours
Purpose and Format: Discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success.
Keys to Success: Limit to one or two topics. Prepare and do research. Engage in good conflict.

Meeting Type: Quarterly Off-site
Time Required: 1-2 days
Purpose and Format: Review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, key personnel, team development
Keys to Success: Get out of office. Focus on work, limit social activities. Don’t over structure or overburden the schedule.

Continue reading below for more highlights and take aways from Death by Meeting:

  • For those of us who lead and manage organizations, meetings are pretty much what we do. After all, we’re not paid for doing anything exceedingly tangible or physical, like delivering babies or kicking field goals or doing stand-up comedy. Whether we like it or not, meetings are the closest thing to an operating room, a playing field, or a stage that we have. And yet most of us hate them. We complain about, try to avoid, and long for the end of meetings, even when we’re running the darn things!
  • The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.
  • Conflict is nothing more than an anxious situation that needs to be resolved.
  • Consensus is a horrible thing.
  • Bad meetings at the executive level usually indicate a huge gap between performance and potential.
  • If you’re trying to make a decision that you’re going to have to live with for years, who cares if the meeting goes long.
  • We try to accomplish too many things during our meetings and as a result don’t end up doing any of them successfully.
  • Consensus isn’t the goal; in fact it’s rarely achieved.
  • On the one hand, they are critical. Meetings are the activity at the center of every organization. On the other hand, they are painful. Frustratingly long and seemingly pointless. The good news is that there is nothing inherent about meetings that makes them bad, and so it is entirely possible to transform them in to compelling, productive, and fun activities. The bad news is that in order to do this, we will have to fundamentally rethink much of the way we perceive and manage meetings.
  • There are two problems with meetings: #1 Meetings are boring. #2 Meetings are ineffective.
  • Meetings are boring because they lack drama, or conflict.
  • Meetings are ineffective because they lack contextual structure.
  • The only thing more painful than confronting an uncomfortable topic is pretending it doesn’t exist.
  • The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting.
  • While it is true that much of the time we currently spend in meetings is largely wasted, the solution is not to stop having meetings, but rather to make them better.
  • When we fail to get clarity and alignment during meetings, we set in motion a colossal wave of human activity as executives and their direct reports scramble to figure out what everyone else is doing and why.

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