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Death By Meeting - A Leadership Fable ... About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business





Book: 'Death by Meeting - A Leadership Fable ... About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business'

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Publisher: Jossie-Bass, 2004


Leader Values

Do you enjoy attending meetings? For most of us, the immediate knee-jerk response to this question is an emphatic "No". Yet all leaders know that meetings are an essential part of achieving their business goals. This paradox drove San Francisco-based management consultant and author Patrick Lencioni to take a fresh look at meetings. In his view, bad meetings make bad decisions. So his aim in Death by Meeting is to "transform them into compelling, productive and fun activities".

Of course, we all know the conventional wisdom about how to have good meetings. You just issue an agenda in advance, stick to the schedule, keep all discussion firmly on the subject, ensure that everyone contributes and follow up by issuing minutes with agreed action steps, right? Not according to Lencioni. Instead, he recommends an interestingly contrarian approach to improving meetings.

In keeping with his desire to make things fun, he doesn't just give us a checklist of requirements for having better meetings. This is not “Seven Steps to Better Meetings”. Instead, Lencioni adopts the modern fable approach – similar to Who Moved My Cheese? and A Genie's Wisdom, but without the talking mice and computer. The core messages take a little longer to develop in the fable approach; but the tone of the presentation remains light and engaging, rather than becoming heavily didactic.

The plot centres on Casey, the CEO of a company which has remarkably ineffective (but painfully familiar-sounding) meetings. When the company is taken over by a larger company, the message to Casey is clear - improve your meetings or get out. In brief, his career is faced with Death by Meeting. Fortunately Casey has just employed Will, a young man with decidedly unorthodox views and a desire to make meetings more effective and more fun. The perceptive reader may see through Will’s disguise and recognise his alter-ego Lencioni underneath.

Will's insights come from an unlikely source. He is a cinema buff, and gets his ideas from the analysis of successful movies. He sees that the problem with most meetings is that they are boring and ineffective. His antidote for boredom is to deliberately create drama through constructive conflict. And his solution for ineffectiveness is to have a range of different types of meeting, each structured differently to meet different objectives.

So Lencioni does not advocate having fewer meetings. In fact he states that his approach may lead to more meetings. But his goal isn't to get us out of having meetings; it is make them more enjoyable and effective. And if they are enjoyable and productive, who cares anyway? For easy reference, the key elements of Lencioni's model for improving meetings are summarised in a short section at the end of the book.

If meetings are getting you down - or maybe even threatening to kill your career - Death by Meeting should help to revitalise your thinking.

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