Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni (2004)

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Features: Death by Meeting A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business
By (author): Patrick Lencioni

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.

“How could my life have unraveled so quickly?” he wondered.

In his latest page-turning work of business fiction, best-selling author Patrick Lencioni provides readers with another powerful and thought-provoking book, this one centered around a cure for the most painful yet underestimated problem of modern business: bad meetings.  And what he suggests is both simple and revolutionary.

Casey McDaniel, the founder and CEO of Yip Software, is in the midst of a problem he created, but one he doesn’t know how to solve.  And he doesn’t know where or who to turn to for advice.  His staff can’t help him; they’re as dumbfounded as he is by their tortuous meetings.

Then an unlikely advisor, Will Peterson, enters Casey’s world.  When he proposes an unconventional, even radical, approach to solving the meeting problem, Casey is just desperate enough to listen.

As in his other books, Lencioni provides a framework for his groundbreaking model, and makes it applicable to the real world.  Death by Meeting is nothing short of a blueprint for leaders who want to eliminate waste and frustration among their teams, and create environments of engagement and passion.

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I’ve always thought of myself is an excellent meeting manager; start on-time, end on-time, have an agenda, and follow-up with action items. I believe in the theory of a well-planned agenda, an easy beginning and end, and a solid meaty middle part where difficult problems get resolved. But I’ve been in plenty of meetings that are pretty darned painful.
Like it or not, meetings are a big part of what I do. That’s how Lencioni begins. Lencioni pushes us that how sad it would be if professional baseball players said, I like my job except for the stupid games. As leaders, a big part of our job is planning, running and following up on the meetings. We often don’t do the work, we simply lead it, guide it, and make sure it happens like we want it to. If we don’t like the meetings where we discuss and lead those things, then we really don’t like the job we have.
  • Conflict. Just like any good movie is based on conflict, a good meeting is based on it as well. People have to be willing to be honest, open and willing to voice opposition.
  • Structure – Just like in TV you would not mix a movie, headline news, sitcoms and mini-series, maybe one meeting should not include all of those things.
  • Daily “Headline News Meeting” – A Daily Check-In – A 5 minute meeting where the day is reviewed.
  • Weekly 30 minute “Sit Com” meeting. Weekly staff meeting focusing on tactical issues – 30 – 90 minute with no pre-set agenda. Start with 60 second report from each person on the up to three projects the person is working on this week. Then, the team would review a scorecard of where we are relative to the company scorecard. From that point, the team would determine the content of the remainder of the meeting.
  • Quarterly Offsite Meeting: Meetings should not be a chance to step away from day to day bothers, and look at the big picture and long-term impact stuff. One to two days. Best people, strategies, successes, failures, re-positioning, maybe with an outside consultant, particularly on the off-sites.
  • Monthly strategic meeting. When you have topics that are about changes in strategy, new projects, and new goals, they should be saved until the monthly strategic meeting.
This book is a much needed book for any executive. We don’t think about our meetings enough. We don’t think strategically and we don’t plan the meetings. We can all be better. Plan it, give it meaning, conflict and context, and make them effective.