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Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable.About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business Hardcover – March 4, 2004
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“…a work of fiction with important messages for management” (Leadership & Organisational Development Journal)
“The author is something of a master of the modern fable….” (Professional Manager, Vol.13, No.6, November 2004)
“…pitches his theory neatly at busy readers by opening with an executive summary.” (Supply Management, 8 July 2004)
"Highly recommended: you could even take it to your next meeting." (On Target, September 2007)
"Finally, a real solution to an age old problem. Meetings may never be the same."
—Kris Hagerman, executive vice president, Strategic Operations, VERITAS Software Corporation
"Death By Meeting is about much more than meetings; it's about an entire management philosophy. I read a lot of books on management, and Lencioni's are among the very best. They form the basis for our approach at Silicon Valley Bank."
—Ken Wilcox, CEO, Silicon Valley Bank
"Lencioni has done it again! Insightful. Practical. Ready-to-implement solutions. If you lead people, you can’t afford to miss this book. It’s an absolute must-read."
—Jim Mellado, president, Willow Creek Association
"We've put Pat's theories into practice and they work. Our meetings are more productive, our communication is clearer, and the team’s commitment to decisions is much greater."
—Curt Nonomaque, president and CEO, VHA Inc.
"Meetings are such a cr itical element of effective organizational communication. Lencioni has provided a concise, entertaining, and inventive guide to improving meeting structure, participation, and results. Thumbs up for this insightful tale."
—Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of operations, Major League Baseball
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Casey is a former semi-pro golfer who starts a game development studio creating golf simulations. His company is acquired, and told that his business can remain autonomous, but only if they improve their performance, now that they are a public company.
Casey, unable to realize how poorly structured and useless his meetings were, hires Will, a 20-something who just finished his MBA and is looking to improve the company's meetings. In doing so, he learns a bit about the business, and how to engage co-workers.
Overall, I found the story to do a suitable job of illustrating the author's key points. If you want to get to the bottom of the book, you can really read the last 10 pages or so, which can also be found on the author's site: [...]
Patrick’s adagio on meetings is best set by his so-called hard truth: “bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity”. Most companies today have some form of policies guiding the basic conduct of meetings but fewer have a documented framework within which the different meetings are place. Patrick’s book might provide some useful tuning and/or some new ideas to the more seasoned managers. However, I would argue that the book is more useful to the junior employees entering their corporate careers. It will give them a basic handle on where to place their input and understand where and how some of the decisions (ideally) have been or will be made. If you don’t like the story approach, skip to the end and look at the meeting framework Patrick outlines as a summary. That does the job too!
Every one involved in an organization that holds meetings should read and apply this.
But first...here's a Pop Quiz! Everyone stand up. OK...now remain standing if your job requires you to attend at least one meeting a week. OK...now remain standing if you are in a minimum of five meetings a week (staff meeting, one-on-one meetings, etc.). I know...everyone is still standing. But now...remain standing if you have ever read a book, attended a workshop, viewed a webinar or had coaching on effective meetings management. (Anyone still standing?)
My top book pick in my "Meetings Bucket" is this book--but I've never fully reviewed it here. So...listen to Lencioni talk about "Sneaker Time" (pages 251-252):
"Most executives I know spend hours sending email, leaving voice mail, and roaming the halls to clarify issues that should have been made clear during a meeting in the first place. But no one accounts for this the way they do when they add up time spent in meetings.
"I have no doubt that sneaker time is the most subtle, dangerous, and underestimated black hole in corporate America. To understand it, it is helpful to take a quick look at the basic geometry of an executive team within the context of an organization.
"Consider that an executive team with just seven people has twenty-one combinations of one-to-one relationships that have to be maintained in order to keep people on the same page. That alone is next to impossible for a human being to track.
"But when you consider the dozens of employees down throughout the organization who report to those seven and who need to be on the same page with one another, the communication challenge increases dramatically, as does the potential for wasting time and energy. And so, 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.
"Remarkably, because sneaker time is mixed in with everything else we do during the day, we fail to see it as a single category of wasted time. It never ceases to amaze me when I see executives checking their watches at the end of a meeting and lobbying the CEO for it to end so they can `go do some real work.' In so many cases, the `real work' they're referring to is going back to their offices to respond to e-mail and voice mail that they've received only because so many people are confused about what needs to be done.
"It's as if the executives are saying, 'Can we wrap this up so I can run around and explain to people what I never explained to them after the last meeting?' It is at once shocking and understandable that intelligent people cannot see the correlation between failing to take the time to get clarity, closure, and buy-in during a meeting, and the time required to clean up after themselves as a result."
Whoa! That hits close to home! Good stuff. So get the book, read his leadership fable (in the classic Lencioni style) and begin religiously implementing his four kinds of meetings: 1) Daily Check-in, 2) Weekly Tactical, 3) Monthly Strategic and 4) Quarterly Off-site Review.