Customer Reviews: Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business
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His previous book, "Five Disfunctions..." is by far the best work Lencioni has written to date, so "Death By Meeting" had quite a challenge to match when it came out. Although it falls a little short, still it accomplishes a task that cannot be diminished: it shows executives (and managers at large, I'd argue) how to make meetings more effective for once, and (are you ready for this?) he advocates for more, not less, meetings, in order to enhance the performance of companies and positively impact the lives of those who work in them.
The book, like his previous ones, is cleverly structured in two large parts: The Fable and The Model. The first part lays out a sort of novel, where the characters could pretty much be you and me, taking part in management meetings in our own companies, and tells the story of how implementing his methodology (brought about by a "consultant in disguise", impersonated by the CEO's personal assistant) helped put the company's steering team out of its meeting "misery", by turning their meetings into a satisfactory and productive experience that they started looking forward to from then on.
The second part summarizes the methodology presented in The Fable, in a more general context, by introducing the four types of meeting he advocates:
-Daily Check-In
-Weekly Tactical
-Monthly Strategic (or Ad Hoc Strategic)
-Quarterly Off-site Review
Even if you think you are effective at managing your meetings, I highly recommend that you give "Death By Meeting" a read. It won't take more than 2 hours of your time, and it will provide you and your team with benefits to reap for life. Disregard at your own managerial risk!
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on July 10, 2004
The title is provocative and will probably sell books. The parable of a software game firm in Monterey struggling with ineffective meetings makes for a reasonably readable, well-scripted (except for "our data is inconclusive." p. 184) and intriguing story. "Death" has the air of "Disclosure" without the sex, as Yip Software allows itself to be taken over (cashing in -- a decision that probably warrants more attention than do the other matters in the book) and then scrutinized by a bigger firm. There is a late twist in the seemingly diabolic machinations of the larger firm and the catalyst to the correction in team decision making is imbued with a needless obsessive-compulsive, Tourette-like malady that allows him to have a psychological excuse -- when he is off his meds - to speak up at the meetings.
The parable reads well enough and early on reminded me of John Cleese's marvelous training film, "Meetings, bloody meetings." The original video was so good when it was made almost thirty years ago that Video Arts updated it -- with almost the exact same script and several of the same actors-- ten years ago. "Death" is more current. But Cleese in both versions got it right, better, and funnier than Lencioni. He viewed team meetings as akin to a court proceeding or a trial. The analogy worked.
Effective meetings need critical thinking, not groupthink. The Senate report on the CIA is only the most recent example of no one taking a critical stance as partial information and unreliable data accumulate. But conflict does not seem to be the appropriate remedy for premature or inappropriate consensus. Lencioni is right: Real consensus is difficult if not impossible. But constructive critical thinking is better than conflict (or obsessives off their meds) to make a meeting effective and "interesting". Getting people to feel passionate about their work and their firm is important yet passion does not come from interesting meetings, picnics or stock vesting plans. The passion needs to come from somewhere else.
Cleese's film emphasizes the need to prepare and inform in a way that Lencioni apparently rejects for weekly "tactical" meetings: No agenda, says Lencioni. Lencioni uses an imaginative Holloywood metaphor to illustrate different types of meetings -- there are sitcoms, movies and miniseries parallels for meetings -- but this doesn't really work out for me in the end. The parable comes to an abrupt end and then Lencioni moves to a more formal, structured teaching style and my interest that had been waning disappeared.
I prefer "Death by chocolate" myself.
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on May 9, 2004
If you dwell in the all too common world of unproductive meetings -- which I'd hazard to guess is at least a 50/50 chance -- this book is well worth a look. Consistent with his "business fable" style, Lencioni makes "Death by Meeting" a quick read with some easy to grasp but powerful principles as the payoff.
How many time's have you heard the term, "I can't get anything done because I'm always in meetings." Sounds logical right? Not so, says Lencioni. He precedes to show us through his fable that what's needed is a paradigm shift on how we think about meetings. Meetings aren't problems, they are opporturnities. Meetings don't have to be a death walk, they can inspire, challenge, and bring problems out in the open to be wrestled to the ground and resolved.
In my view, the power of Lencioni's principles are in their simplicity. How many times have you waded through a business book and found yourself inspired only to forget half the of 20 "principles" and so called recipes for success. Lencioni's principles are simple enough that they are both easily grasped and memorable.
The challenge for readers of "Death by Meeting" teachings is that Lencioni provides little beyond the basic framework. He gives few suggestions for implementation, and does not warn of pitfalls or discuss the implications of company culture and barriers that might arise. His message is in affect, here's the framework -- now get to it.
That's a tough pill to swallow for readers who find very few similarities between the company and the leaders depicted in the story and their own situation. But I'd argue that this isn't a valid excuse to let the book gather dust on the shelf. Those who go forward boldly may soon find that they'll create their own fable with a happy ending.
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on March 4, 2004
The fact that most executives hate meeting is truly ironic as they are THE central activity in business. This book cleverly points out that if you are having bad meeting, you are likely making bad decisions. Lencioni's vivid fiction reveals his simple but slightly contrarian view of meetings. I have
already started to use the meeting structure with my clients. Thanks again Mr. Lencioni.
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on June 13, 2012
The title, "Death by Meeting," really spoke to me as someone who has experienced my share of really bad meetings. Patrick Lencioni presents a compelling structure for meetings based around the concept of storytelling. Great ideas; his meeting structure could eliminate many bad meetings.

In terms of criticism, I thought the fable part of the book was mediocre. A mediocre story line is kind of ironic given the fact that the premise of the book revolves around effective storytelling.

I did enjoy the book, but I would have been just as happy with a one-page outline of the meeting structure. I would not recommend this book for someone without enough patience to enjoy the slow development of the ideas -- they would get more value from a one-page outline. I would recommend this book for someone who wants to savor the concepts and retains information better when it is dramatized. I'd also recommend it to anyone who wants to improve the quality of meetings.
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on August 19, 2016
The book is more of a novel than anything else, which does a good job of building characters that you care about, only so that the author can illustrate his key points, which are further highlighted at the back of the book.

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: [...]
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on March 3, 2004
I am ashamed to admit that as a leader I dread meetings. But, as Patrick Lencioni puts it in his newest book, Death by Meeting, meetings are the most important aspect of a leader's job. Thankfully, he provides a cure for bad meetings in this fascinating tale as he hones in on a specific meeting structure (Daily Check-in, Weekly Tactical, Monthly Strategic and
Quarterly Off-site Review) that is sure to make a difference in my organization.
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VINE VOICEon November 30, 2011
This is easy to admit--I cannot improve on Patrick Lencioni's fast-reading, get-the-four-big-ideas-immediately book. So, I'll just quote him in this review.

But's a Pop Quiz! Everyone stand up. remain standing if your job requires you to attend at least one meeting a week. 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.
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on March 5, 2012
This books reads like the countless cases I've read during my university days. While it certainly helps paint a picture, for those looking to cut to the point, you can skip to the last section where the author lists what meetings you should hold and the ways to hold them. It terms of take always, it is light but for those who have tons of meetings every week the takeaways are meaningful. I know I'll be giving his suggestions a go at my workplace.

My only beef is that I could have just read the last dozen pages to get to the same place. But I will say, this would make a great instructional video - and maybe that's how it should be presented.
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on April 11, 2004
We spend incredible amounts of time in meetings and so few are remotely productive. As the CEO, you know that your team has to have meetings, but you search for opportunities to cancel one and let your team focus on other things that you know will be a lot more productive. Until Now...
This book turned my whole view of meetings upside down and gave me a simple, clear plan for managing meetings going forward. We just implemented the changes and everyone on my team loves the new way we do meetings. My entire team now swears by this meeting format and approach.
Pat's plan is so simple and makes so much common sense, you start to wonder why no one was running their meetings this way before. I'm going to give this book to my best business contacts, because I know that this will be one of the best gifts that they have ever received.
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