Facilitator Journal | Issue #0284, January 9, 2007 ....
Welcome to 2007! I hope you all had a great holiday season
and are moving gracefully into this new year. Over the holidays, I read
a wonderful little book that should be of interest to all group leaders.
It's called, "Death By Meeting," by Patrick Lencioni. It's framed
in the form of a fable that is not only easy reading, but also helps you
relate to the message. The message lays out the two main reasons meetings
are usually so poor and what to do about them. I summarize the key points
in this weeks article, "Bringing Meetings Back from the Dead."
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Bringing Meetings Back from the Dead
Two key strategies for drastically improving your meetings.
Over the holidays, I read a wonderful little book that should be of interest
to all group leaders. It's called, "Death By Meeting," by Patrick
Lencioni. It's framed in the form of a fable that's not only easy reading,
but also helps you relate to the message. The message lays out the two
main reasons meetings are usually so poor and what to do about them. So
what are these key points you ask?
Welcome Conflict. I'm often amused when I receive emails from readers
asking how they can solve an issue in their group without addressing it
directly or without ruffling feathers. I'm amused because I can relate
to their sincere desire to maintain harmony. But when outer harmony comes
at the expense of inner suffering, we don't really have harmony. What
we've really got is fake harmony outside and raging wars inside.
In "Death By Meeting," Will, one of the main characters, queries
his group as to whether they'd rather attend a two-hour movie or a two-hour
meeting. The answer was of course obvious. Why? What is it about movies
that meetings tend to lack? In a word, "conflict." Every movie
has a conflict to be resolved in one form or another, either externally
or internally. Conflict is interesting, its spicy. It brings out our best
and our worst and we enjoy watching it unfold.
But what is it that we avoid most in meetings? Yes, you've got it. It's
conflict! But only through conflict, disagreement, argument, heated discussion,
etc. can we really flesh out an issue to its core and discover resolution.
Only when all views are adequately aired will participants be willing
to agree and support a solution that might not be their initially chosen
Enter the Drama
Will further suggested that meetings should be more interesting than movies
given that we can interact in them and affect their outcome, and that
their results often have a stake in our livelihoods. It goes without saying
however, that we have to be more than passive bystanders watching meetings
unfold as if they were movies without engaging...without risking a conflict.
Finally, Will suggests that another key problem we have with meetings
is that we try to do too much in each one. We stress our meeting structures
so that they are doomed to fail us. He suggests four different types of
meetings that separate near-term actions, long term strategy, and big-picture
company issues into separate meeting venues each with their own purpose
So how can we use this information in our meetings as leaders and participants?
Here are some suggestions.
Whether you're the meeting leader or a participant, welcome conflict
when it begins to occur. Let everyone know that its a good thing. It means
that there's passion and interest in the subject and that the engaging
participants are digging below the surface into that unknown region of
diversity where more truth and complexity is available, along with the
possibility of a real solution.
For example, "Suzy and Michael, it's great to hear you discussing
this issue with such passion. This discussion is long overdue and I'm
happy you're working it through. If it feels uncomfortable at times, that's
OK, it should feel uncomfortable. Resolving differences is sometimes painful.
Seeking to stay comfortable around this or any difficult situation simply
Keep Conflict Respectable
When we speak of conflict here, we speak of conflicting opinions versus
conflicting people. Make it clear that there is a difference in ideas
and opinions and that this is good. Support participants in maintaining
respect for one another, refraining from name calling and personal attacks,
and get them to focus on owning and expressing their own views
versus making assumptions about others.
For example, Suzy might say, "Michael, you think money grows on trees.
We can't afford to hire a new salesperson just because you can't do your
job." You could coach her to refrain from making assumptions about
Michael's values. Suggest a questions instead. Something like, "Michael,
how do you think a new salesperson will help us and how do you suggest
we pay for one?"
Separate Meetings Types
Patrick suggests four types of meeting structures in his book, the 5-minute
Daily Check-in, the 45-90 minute Weekly Tactical, the 2-4 hour Monthly
or Ad Hoc Strategy, and the 1-2 day Quarterly Off-site Review. The two
most common are the Weekly Tactical Meeting (WTM) and the Monthly Strategic
In the WTM, there is no agenda coming into the meeting. A few minutes
are relegated for checkin by each team member around their key tasks for
the week. Then a few minutes are used to develop an agenda that contains
the top few items that need the most attention based on the check-in.
Then for the rest of the meeting, only these near-term tactical issues
are discussed. If something strategic comes up that needs to be addressed,
it is parked and deferred to an upcoming Strategy Meeting.
Strategy Meetings are scheduled to address strategic decision-making or
can be convened Ad Hoc as needed to address an immediate concern. Strategy
meetings focus on only one or two issues which are afforded the time they
require. Therefore, it's suggested that participants block out four hours
for the strategic meetings so that the items can be brought to completion.
Conflict is good. It creates drama and interest and is often required
to work through complex problems. Having walked through a conflict to
its resolution, participants build trust and respect, qualities that enhance
and improve their working relationships and ability to resolve future
Providing a meeting structure separating tactics from strategy
prevents much of the jumping around that occurs in most meetings between
immediate issues and long term strategy. Both of which need to be dealt
with but within different contexts.
challenges do you have in the meetings you lead or attend? Based on the
ideas in this article, how can you bring more spice into your meetings?
Please click reply and tell me. I'd love to hear from you.
by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem
by Patrick M. Lencioni
While the creativity and storytelling in most business novels is generally
an insult to the word `novel,' Patrick Lencioni's work in Death by Meeting
provides a very pleasant surprise. It is easy to read and you sense the
emotions and issues that real people deal with every day. The heart of
this book focuses on turning the dragging, lifeless and even painful experience
of "the business meeting" into a dynamic essential element of
the nervous system of any company.
premise of Death by Meeting is the conflict is not to be avoided in meetings
but encouraged. Different than personal conflict, idea and position conflict
is what is needed to make tough decisions and take the company forward.
The second major premise is that we can not have multipurpose meetings.
We should have some meetings for information and others for decision making,
each with a different style and cadence. Lencioni specifically suggests
four types of meetings. The 5-minute Daily Check-in, the 45-90 minute
Weekly Tactical, the 2-4 hour Monthly or Ad Hoc Strategy and the 1-2 day
Quarterly Off-site Review.
Few if any
proposed meeting structures come closer to what you would expect to see
in a truly lean company. A lean company has (a) tremendous focus on the
task at hand, (b) a disdain for waste such as that demonstrated when meetings
lack purpose and structure and (c) a respect for the benefit of structure
and standardization, such as proposed by the rhythm these meetings have.
I highly suggest taking a look at this book, and then a more serious look
at your own meeting structure.
Jamie Flinchbaugh (Michigan USA)
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