Death by Meetings

Yesterday I was handed a copy of Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting (I don’t think it was a hint!). This book dove-tails nicely with a similar kindle freebie I read a while back by Al Pittampalli entitled Read This Before Our Next Meeting . Here’s the combined wisdom:

  1. Have less meetings – they waste time and cheese off the ‘victims’. Do more by email, social media, text or whatever. But don’t spend innumerable hours of salaries on unnecessary, unproductive meetings.
  2. Meetings should move fast and end on schedule (AP – Al Pittampalli). Everyone loves the productive meeting that finishes early. Nobody thanks you for finishing at 11.30 at night! Help yourself by not overloading the agenda – don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Everyone will leave frustrated.
  3. Meetings should involve only those necessary (AP). We’ve all been in those meetings with fifteen people and everyone wants their two-penneth worth. Kill me now!
  4. Meetings should reject the unprepared (AP). Read pre-circulated docs ahead of time. If you turn up and ask to be briefed on pre-circulated info you should be taken out back and beaten to death with a snooker ball in a sock.
  5. Meetings should produce clear action plans (AP & PL). Don’t leave a meeting with no idea of who’s supposed to have done what by when – have specific timed objectives, and be accountable on them.
  6. A variety of meetings is necessary (PL – Patrick Lencioni) – Lencioni recommends the weekly 90 minute team talk (to review weekly activities past and upcoming), as well as the quarterly away day (to strategize and review big picture).

There’s lots of wisdom here, and I’d hope to be able to apply some of this stuff with a couple of caveats. If you work with volunteers some of the above is unrealistic and we’ll require more grace and charity. Volunteers will certainly appreciate us respecting their time and keeping meetings brief, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh if they haven’t read every email or pre-circulated document – a case of the ideal vs. the real. Second, if you happen to be in church leadership you’ll want to soak your meeting in prayer. That’s not to say that being efficient and productive isn’t Christian (actually I think it is good stewardship of time and resources), but it does mean we’re not beavering away in our own strength and effort – we can (and should) entreat the help of Him who can do far more than we ask or imagine.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of good take-away’s to think about and I’d definitely recommend getting hold of these books and working out the detail for your own situation.


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