Patrick Lencioni in his best seller Death by meeting proposes a structure which involves four basic types of meetings. There should be different meetings for different purposes, and each of them serves a valid and important function.
Meeting #1:The Daily Check-In
Purpose: share daily schedules and activities.
Features: the Daily Check-in requires that team members get together, standing up, for about five minutes every morning to report on their activities that day. Five minutes. Standing up. That’s it. The purpose of the Daily Check-in is to help team members avoid confusion about how priorities are translated into action on a regular basis. It provides a quick forum for ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks on a given day and that no one steps on anyone else’s toes. Just as important, it helps eliminate the need for unnecessary and time-consuming e-mail chains about schedule coordination. It can be impractical for many organizations where team members work in different locations and time zones. And while a check-in can be done by phone, it isn’t always wise to go to great lengths to make them happen in an organization where it is just not feasible.
Challenges: one of the certain challenges will be getting team members to stick with it initially, long enough to make it part of their routine. Therefore, it will be extremely important not to cancel any, even if only two members of the team are in the office on a given day.
Tip: prohibit people from sitting down during Daily Check-ins.
Meeting #2:The Weekly Tactical
Purpose: review weekly activities and metrics, and resolve tactical obstacles and issues.
Features: this meeting is focused exclusively on tactical issues of immediate concern. It has two overriding goals: resolution of issues and reinforcement of clarity. It should last between forty-five and ninety minutes, and should include the following steps:
Phase A – The Lightning Round
This is a quick, around-the-table reporting session in which everyone indicates their two or three priorities for the week. It should take each team member no more than one minute. It makes it easy for the team to identify potential redundancies, gaps, or other issues that require immediate attention.
Phase B – Progress Review
This is the routine reporting of critical information or metrics: revenue, expenses, customer satisfaction, inventory, etc., depending on the particular industry and organizational situation. This should take no more than five minutes, even when allowing for quick questions for clarification of numbers.
Phase C – Real-Time Agenda
the agenda should be based on what everyone is actually working on and how the company is performing. Leaders must avoid the temptation to prepare an agenda ahead of time, and instead allow it to take shape during the meeting itself.
Resist to the temptation to set an agenda ahead of time because it is critical for team members to come to the Weekly Tactical with an open mind, and to let the real activities and progress against objectives determine what needs to be discussed. Do not go into too much detail during the lightning round. This causes others to lose interest, which clouds the ability of the team to identify the right issues for discussion and resolution. Do not mix strategic and tactical topics during meetings, otherwise you’ll inappropriately reconsider strategic decisions when faced with inevitable tactical obstacles.
Tip: hold team members to one minute during the lightning round, staring at a clock for sixty seconds.
Meeting #3:The Monthly Strategic
Purpose: Discuss, analyze, brainstorm and decide upon critical issues affecting long term success.
Features: executives can analyze, debate, and decide upon critical issues (but only a few) that will affect the business in fundamental ways, diving into a given topic or two without the distractions of deadlines and tactical concerns. This meeting can serve as a timely “parking lot” for critical strategic issues that come up during the Weekly Tactical meetings. It is it advisable to schedule at least two hours per topic so that participants feel comfortable engaging in open-ended conversation and debate. A fundamental step is research and preparation ahead of time. The quality of a strategic discussion, and the decision that results from it, are improved greatly by a little preliminary work.
Challenges: the most obvious one is the failure to schedule enough time for them. Resist to the temptation to discuss every important issue and don’t put too many items on the agenda.
Tip: ensure that more than enough time is scheduled for each issue.
Meeting #4: The Quarterly Off-Site Review
Purpose: review strategy, competitive landscape, industry trends, key personnel, team development.
Features: off-sites provide executives an opportunity to regularly step away from the daily, weekly, even monthly issues that occupy their attention, so they can review the business in a more holistic, long-term manner. Topics for reflection and discussion might include the following:
- Strategy Review: executives should reassess their strategic direction;
- Team Review: executives should regularly assess themselves and their behaviors as a team;
- Personnel Review: executives should talk, across departments, about the key employees within the organization;
- Competitive and Industry Review: information about competitors and industry trends.
Challenges: resist to the temptation to overburden and over-structure the meetings, which usually takes the form of tightly scheduled slide presentations and lengthy informational sermons.
Tip: avoid exotic locations: driving an hour away to a comfortable hotel or conference center is usually enough.
Adapted from Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable… About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, by Patrick Lencioni