on 2 June 2004
Continuing the current hot trend of couching business counsel in fables, author Patrick Lencioni takes on the ogre of the deadly dull meeting and through story and advice, wrestles it to the ground. The book is in large part about boring meetings and the author manages to reproduce their tone exactly. The protagonists are the boss, Casey, and an employee named Will who eventually loses his temper in the face of one more stifling, useless meeting. The author plants lessons about meetings throughout the story, revealed by the characters' experiences. However, after the fable comes an undiluted section of advice: about 40 pages of straightforward, expository prose about how to have more effective, engaging meetings. If you want useful workday advice and prefer to save fairytales — even those with built-in lessons — for bedtime, start there. We welcome this solid guidance on how to make meetings work better.
on 14 August 2008
One should not think that writing an exciting book about business meetings should be possible. Make that doubly so for a fiction book. But Patrick Lencioni, author of the The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has succeeded. Okay, so it is a leadership fable and the goal of the book is to show how meetings need not be dreary and draining experiences rather than to entertain. That being said, Lencioni draws upon his screenwriting training and takes time to create characters and plot lines that are not any worse than what you find in a lot of popular fiction.
The story is about Casey McDaniel, the CEO and founder of Yip, a computer games publisher. After having sold his company to a competitor, Playsoft, on condition that he can stay on as CEO, he is shocked to learn that his job might not be so secure after all. Shortly after the merger was completed, he receives what amounts to an ultimatum: improve his staff meetings or leave the company. Poor Casey does not know where to start, but luckily for him Will Peterson, his PA temp does. As the story unfolds we get to learn about what the biggest problems with meetings are and what we can do about them.
So what are the big problems? According to Lencioni there are two: a lack of drama and a lack of contextual structure. By a lack of drama he means the lack of a hook to get you interested in the topic under discussion and the lack of conflict throughout the meeting. He certainly has a point regarding conflict. I find that the most rewarding meetings are the ones where people demonstrate some passion. Heated arguments, as long as they remain constructive and do not degenerate into obstinate contradictions, ad hominem attacks and name calling, tend to generate a deeper and broader understanding of a topic than a sleep-inducing, dispassionate ones.
The need for conflict will not be news for readers of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, but the second point regarding the need for contextual structure will be. Lencioni's point is that we try to handle all issues with the same kind of meeting, but that we really should have different kinds of meetings for different kinds of issues. These meetings will vary when it comes to frequency, length, structure and topics discussed.
He sees a need for four different kinds of meetings:
* The daily check-in
* The weekly tactical
* The monthly strategic
* The quarterly off-site review
The daily check-in is a five-minutes, standing up meeting early in the morning where each member of the team gives a very brief overview of what they will be doing that day.
The weekly tactical is a one-hour meeting that starts with a "lightning round" where each participant gets 60 seconds to report on their three primary activities the next week, followed by an overview of two or three key metrics. Based on the lightning round and the key metrics an agenda is agreed. Only tactical topics should go on the agenda, strategic ones should be parking lotted for the next kind of meeting.
The monthly strategic can stretch up-to three hours. Only two or three topics should be covered in any one meeting as plenty of time is needed to hash out strategic issues. Preparation is necessary for a successful monthly strategic. All necessary research needed for making well-informed decisions must have been done. It is however, also important to not do the concluding in advance. The meeting should be a debate and not a presentation of decisions already made.
The quarterly off-site review is a meeting over two days where topics such as top and bottom performers, the competitive landscape and team dynamics are discussed.
This is one in a series of "leadership fables" in which Patrick Lencioni shares his thoughts about the contemporary business world. His characters are fictitious human beings rather than anthropomorphic animals, such as a tortoise that wins a race against a hare or pigs that lead a revolution to overthrow a tyrant and seize control of his farm.
In this instance, Lencioni focuses on probably the single greatest waste of organizational resources: meetings. Although they are "the closet thing to an operating room, a playing field, or a stage that we have...most of us hate them. We complain about, try to avoid, and long for the end of meetings, even when we're running the darn things! How pathetic is it that we have come to accept that the activity most central to the running of our organizations is inherently painful and unproductive?" Nonetheless, in most organizations, meetings comprise the single greatest cause of waste of resources and, yes, of opportunities as well.
Briefly, here's the fictitious situation. Lencioni introduces Casey McDaniel, generally viewed as "an extraordinary man - but just an ordinary CEO" of Yip Software, a designer and manufacturer of sports-related video games company he founded. What is perhaps most significant about Casey is the fact that conducts lethargic, unfocused, and passionless staff meetings that his colleagues understandably dread, as does he. For reasons best revealed within the narrative, he sells his company to Playsoft, the second-largest manufacturer of video games. Enter J.T. Harrison who serves as a liaison between Yip and Software. Almost immediately, Casey's inadequacies as a CEO and, especially, the consequences of the executive staff meetings he conducts become obvious to Harrison who becomes increasingly concerned about Yip's underperformance. Casey's career and the fate of his company are in jeopardy when Casey hires Will Petersen to be his temporary administrative assistant while his permanent administrative assistant is on maternity leave.
What then happens - and does not happen -- throughout the ensuing weeks enables Lencioni to dramatize the importance of scheduling, preparing for, conducting, and then following through on meetings that are never boring nor ineffective. Hence the great emphasis Lencioni places on having different kinds of meetings (e.g. daily check-in, weekly tactical, monthly or as-needed ad hoc strategic, and quarterly off-site), each of which has a different context, purpose, structure, and timeframe. Obviously, some meetings will generate more conflict, excitement, drama, etc. than will others. Over the years, many (if not most) of the staff meetings I have participated in (including those I conducted) wasted time on discussion of what to discuss rather than on making decisions about what to do.
At least 8-10 years ago, Lencioni apparently made a conscious decision to address especially important business issues by creating a human context for each rather than merely offering answers to questions or prescribing solutions to problems. To me, this is one of the greatest benefits of a business narrative, in this instance of a leadership fable: Creating a series of real-world situations (albeit portrayed fictitiously) that readers can identify with emotionally as well as rationally. He is a brilliant business thinker but he also possesses the skills of a master raconteur as he introduces a cast of characters, develops conflicts between and among them, and then allows "rising action" to build to a climax that is also best revealed within the narrative. Unexpected plot developments engage the reader even more.
Of special interest to me is Will's role in this business fable. He serves as an especially effective means by which Lencioni articulates his insights and suggestions. Eventually, in ways and to an extent also best revealed within the narrative, Will has a profound impact on Casey's leadership style as well as on Yip Software's fate. Although Casey and his colleagues as well as J.T. Harrison are fictitious characters, each is credible as a human being rather merely functioning as a literary device. Their values, concerns, personalities, anxieties, and behavior will be very familiar to anyone who has been involved in non-productive group discussions.
As is Lencioni's custom in each of the other volumes in the series of "leadership fables," he also includes (after the Fable) a "Model" section, consisting of supplementary material (Pages 221-254) whose value-added benefits will help his reader to make effective application of the lessons learned from the experiences shared by Casey and his colleagues at Yip Software. Lencioni leaves no doubt that there are direct correlations between enjoyable as well as productive meetings and effective leadership and management to establish and then sustain a "healthy"organization.
Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Patrick Lencioni's other "leadership fables" as well as Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Bill George's Authentic Leadership and his more recently published True North, James O'Toole's Creating the Good Life, and Michael Maccoby's Narcissistic Leaders.
on 27 January 2012
If you want people to remember something, tell them a story!
If you want people to learn something, engage them to the extent that they enjoy themselves!
Lencioni has an exceptionally good style of telling a story around what is usually a turgid and difficult subject.
I really do enjoy his books!
This book is about a critical aspect of running a business or any organisation well: Meetings.To be fair, it was with some dread that I looked at this book and would not have read it without prior experience of the author!
There are only two problems with meetings:
They lack Drama and
They lack Context!
For anyone involved in business or any other organisations where meetings are important (and i would suggest that they are critical!) this is another exceptionally easy read from a craftsman, setting out and reinforcing the principles through a case study (from a fictitious company) and really challenging one to think about the role and format of meetings.
It is easy to read in an extended sitting, perhaps two to three hours.
The format is an entertaining story, very well written, giving a practical example/illustration of the issues arising, the problems created and ultimately a resolution: hold different types of meetings to address key issues of Updates, Tactics, Strategy and Review.
This is followed up by a summary chapter which reinforces the principles in the manner of a good text book.
If you are already familiar with the One Minute Manager series of books, you will recognise the format, though in my own opinion, this is to a more professional level.
Get it, Read it and Store it in the Business Bookcase for Reference! Four plus Stars from me for this one! ****+
on 10 July 2013
I expected great things from this book as the title made me smile, however cant say that it was particulalry dynamic or revolutionary. Written as a fairly boring novel I battled on reading it expecting something amazing to happen but it didnt, the only useful part for me was the summary at the back.
on 18 February 2014
What a waste of time.
This whole book could be reduced into a bullet pointed pamphlet. If you are forced to read it by your boss like I was, do yourself a favour and skip to page 211. It repeats itself from then on anyway, but in the form of a blessedly short summary.
The book has one, maybe two decent points to make, and takes a rambling age to get to either of them. The story element reads like terrible fan fiction you might come across on any tweenage blog. There is a very telling passage in which the author says he took a screen writing class once. It felt like he was clinging on to a dead dream of being a successful fiction writer by crowbarring a cliché ridden load of dross into a book that no one has picked up for entertainment. The book takes literally 91 pages to make its first point - which ironically is that meeting should probably be concise.
I was so mind nummingly bored and infuriated by the writing style, I found it very hard to take any of the points (however productive they might be) as seriously as they may have deserved. My issue here is with the book as a whole, not the advice RE meetings.
One more irritation - ending every chapter with "but little did he know how important that day would be" or "She would quickly realise just how serious the ramifications of her decision would be" etc was clearly a device to make the reader excited to read on, but I found it infuriating.
on 12 October 2007
If you find that everyone on your team is dreading the next meeting, this book will help you understand why. Humorous and all-too-honest look at why our meetings stink and how to get them back on track. Offers practical advice in running 4 different types of meetings based on the needs of the team.
Patrick Lenconi's fable style of writing appeals to me as it is not weighty and academic and thus much more accessible. Through a serious story set in business he outlines his vision of how to make meetings much more effective and...enjoyable. There is not a great deal of complexity in his theory that underpins the fable, and there shouldn't be as that would conflict with his vision.
This will appeal to anyone who has struggled though a meeting and walked away wondering what they got out of it. It will also appeal to those who have run such meetings.
Consider this tale a timely reminder that trying to achieve too much in one place often means that not much is achieved. Through focusing on what is realistic, and not being afraid of conflict, meetings can be productive sessions that drive business forward and improve colleague relationships.
on 15 February 2014
The book does exactly what it says - tells an engaging fable which encourages you to think creatively about how to improve your meetings. The key theme I will remember is "which would you prefer to go to a meeting or a film?" The book explains why we usually answer "film" but should be answering "meeting".
I am currently working through how I can improve the participation and outcomes from my regular team meeting.
If you need to improve meetings you run, or those that you are part of then this book will give you very helpful ideas to do it, and a fable to use to explain your reasons as you try to take colleagues with you.
on 26 August 2013
I bought this book because the title amused me, but with an inner sense that many of the meetings I attend (some of which I chair) are a waste of time. Draining, inefficient, unproductive. Patrick`s book puts some markers in the ground, signposts about more productive directions to take. Even the simple concept of four types of meeting to achieve different things- such a simple idea it made me say "Why didn't I think of that?". Simple but not simplistic, I think someone once referred to Covey` 7 habits with the same phrase. Thoroughly enjoyable read.