Death by Meeting

Written by: Patrick M. Lencioni

Review by: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise: Consultant and author Patrick M. Lencioni, author of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, tackles another business pain point in this 2004 release, Death by Meeting. In the book, Lencioni tells the story of Casey McDaniel, the founder, and CEO of Yip Software, who finds himself leading a demotivated organization that isn’t reaching its potential. Through this business fable, Lencioni brings to life the reality of how much time and energy is wasted at bad meetings.

Rather than accepting that most meetings are unproductive and unavoidably painful, Lencioni points to two key issues that derail most meetings: lack of drama (they’re boring) and lack of context and purpose (they’re filled with administrivia, lack of focus, poor follow through and accountability). The book outlines ways to inject drama by making people care and encouraging constructive conflict. Context and purpose are addressed through introducing four key types of meetings: daily check-in, weekly tactical, monthly strategic and quarterly review. Meetings should be engaging, relevant and meaningful, and running effective meetings is a skillset that every leader needs to have.

The Bottom-line: Executive Roundtable member and alumni Jeremy Diamond of the Vimy Foundation sent me this book to read some time back (thanks Jeremy!). With so many of our members drowning in meetings, I thought I’d crack it open and see what’s of value.

First off, I have to say I’m not a big fan of the ‘business fable’ story telling approach. I find it a bit tedious, however, Lencioni does a pretty good job of painting out the picture of a typical organization filled with dysfunctional meetings. The four meeting structure he recommends is one that we follow at The Executive Roundtable – with some modifications – and there’s no question that it works. I picked it up from an entrepreneurs group that I belong to. Entrepreneurs hate wasting time in meetings. My observation of most organizations is that 80% of the meetings people attend are a colossal waste of time.

When people hear about the four meeting structure, they usually balk at it because they feel like it’s going to add ‘more meetings’. The reality is, it may add more meetings but it actually reduces time. The meetings are more focused; have a purpose; and are far more productive. I’d strongly recommend taking a look at this book and the four meeting structure if you’re looking for a better way to managing meetings in your team.

Roundtable Rating: Recommended for leaders who find their meetings dysfunctional.

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