Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Patrick Lencioni's Death By Meeting

I just finished reading this book, and like all Lencioni books, the lessons to be learned about meetings are explained through the use of a story (or a fable). My experience with Lencioni's method of telling a story that many people can relate to to illustrate points, and then tying the points cohesively together at the end of the book makes these books very good for organizational training as opposed to strictly fact-based books or manuals.

The title of the book, "Death By Meeting," led me to believe that the book was about reducing the number of overall meetings within an organization to free people up to actually get their job done. The book, in actuality, deals with how to make meetings more effective and even proposes an increase in the number of meetings, but a decrease in the length of the meetings. Specifically, the book proposes daily 5 minute meetings, weekly 1 hour meetings, monthly 2 hour meetings, and quarterly off-site meetings. The end result, if implemented correctly, should be an overall reduction in the sheer volume of meetings that take up everyone's time.

Here are a few signs that your company may need to readjust its outlook on meetings:
1. You always have 500 e-mails in your inbox that you have not read (and your excuse is that you can't get through them because you are always in meetings). If you have a Blackberry or similar e-mail device and this is still the case, I suggest you go buy the book today.

2. You constantly stay at work 2 hours after everyone had gone home just to try to catch up on e-mails and voicemail.

3. Your hardcopy Inbox on your desk never drops below 1-2 feet high because you never have time to go through it. It's even worse if your assistant has a separate file that they have to put on your chair so that you know what you need to go through from your Inbox.

4. Your employees have to stay after for ridiculous amounts of time to get direction on their work and/or your input because you are in solid meetings for 8 hours per day.

5. You employ an assistant because you are in so many meetings, you never really make it to your desk for any significant amount of time. If you have requested an assistant for this reason, you have the chance to fix the process before adding headcount.

6. You have meetings about meetings.

There are people in many organizations whose sole job seems to be to attend meetings. Perhaps that's needed in some organizations, although I ran a search on Hotjobs and couldn't find a job for a professional meeting attendee (I could even find an internship for it). I have worked with and in many corporations that do not understand how meetings should work. A lot of it has to do with the internal politics of the organization -- individuals are unwilling to make decisions on their own and want multiple fingerprints on a decision, hence lots of meetings.

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