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Book:  Death By Meeting

Author:  Patrick Lencioni

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation: Lencioni, P. (2004). Death by meeting : a leadership fable-- about solving the most painful problem in business. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Key Takeaways:​

Cannot just touch important topics and then let them drift away – need to set up strategical meetings and allow them the time that is needed

You can tell a lot about a company when you visit their leadership team/executive meetings

Everyone seems to come in late to meetings – this should not be the case.

Consensus (all in complete agreement) in a group is usually not achievable but once the decision is made, everyone must support the decision

Avoiding issues that merit debate guarantees issues won’t be resolved; you can’t avoid the tough issues

The only thing more painful than confronting an uncomfortable topic is pretending it doesn’t exist

Must remind your people that conflict is good

May have more meetings as a result of this book, but remember meetings are usually time-savers in the long term

It is shocking that intelligent people cannot see the correlation between failing to take the time to get clarity, closure, and buy-in during a meeting, and the time required to clean up after themselves as a result

Effective meetings are NOT a waste of time; instead, the people asking to leave meetings to get “work” done are probably wasting their time returning emails and voicemails


Meeting #1: Daily Check In

Stand up for five minutes every morning to report on the activities for the day

This will help avoid confusion about how priorities are translated into action

Keep consistent where and when the daily check in meeting occurs

Should be 5-10 minutes; must give time for it to start working.  People may not be fans of these meetings at first!

Meeting #2:  Weekly Tactical Meeting

Everyone on your leadership team must attend a weekly tactical meeting

Should be around 45-90 minutes

The first part of the meeting is the lightning round - Quick, around the table reporting session with 2-3 priorities for the week. 

The lightning round is critical because it gives participants a real sense of the actual activities taking place in the organization

Second part of the meeting is to review progress relating to key metrics for success; This should be like 4-6 items

Lengthy discussion of underlying issues should be avoided here

Once the lightning round and progress review are complete (should be no more than 15 minutes in) then it will be time to talk about the agenda

Agenda should NOT be set heading into the meeting – should be set after the lightning round

Agenda for the rest of the meetings is based on what everyone is actually working

During the weekly tactical meeting, there are two overriding goals:  resolution of issues and reinforcement of clarity

Avoid temptation to discuss long term strategic issues during the weekly tactical


Meeting #3:  Monthly/Ad Hoc Strategic Meeting

When strategic issues are raised in the weekly tactical meeting need to move them to the monthly strategic meeting

Wrestle with, analyze, debate, and decide upon critical issues

Must do research and preparation ahead of the strategic meeting!  An example would be the attendance meetings – must research other districts BEFORE the meeting or else the meeting will be a waste of time

Meeting #4: Off-Site Review​

Reassess the schools strategic direction

Ask staff to assess themselves and their behaviors as a team; look for trends/tendencies that may not be serving the organization

Personnel review – who are the starts and who are the poor performers?  

Three or four times a year, leadership team should talk, across departments, about key employees within an organization.  Every member of an executive team should know whom their peers view as their stars as well as their poor performers.

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