For me, the most helpful point Patrick Lencioni makes in Death by Meeting is what he calls “Meeting Stew.”
The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting, like a bad stew with too many random ingredients.
This kind of meeting frustrates people because those who attend will have different and even conflicting goals. Some will want the soup to be fancy, others will want something plain and soothing, still others are hoping for a dessert. But this kind of mishmash gives no one what they want and lets everybody down.
So what you need, Lencioni writes, is “different meetings for different purposes.” There are four types.
- The daily, 5 minute check-in. Focuses on connecting priorities to daily actions.
- The weekly, 45-90 minute tactical meeting. Each member does quick reporting on top priorities, reviewing progress, and deciding tactical issues to meet short-term objectives.
- The monthly, 2-4 hours strategic meeting. The team gets to debate, discuss, and analyze fundamental issues that were previously put in the “parking lot”.
- The quarterly, 1–2 day off-site review. The team completes a comprehensive strategy review, a team review, a personnel review, and a competitive and industry review.
Lencioni discusses the particular challenges to each of these meetings. He also recognizes that some organizations may struggle to follow this advice because of their circumstances. This is true for the various service teams at Covenant, including the session, whose members worship together weekly, but live far enough apart that make frequent meetings throughout each month impossible.
There are a few possible solutions in my opinion:
- choose fewer objectives and/or do them more slowly; aim for sustainability over speed
- have certain “easy” meetings via video/voice calls;
- have longer meetings, combining, say, types two and three, but break these longer meetings up into distinct parts
And while I’m having fun applying a business book to the church, I’ll say Lencioni’s advice is good for families too. Having daily and even more frequent check-ins is essential for my wife and me, as are long, uninterrupted times for discussing big decisions. We haven’t yet implemented the quarterly, off-site review but that sounds fantastic!
Read: Lencioni, Patrick. Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, 2004.