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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

I finished this book in November 2022. I recommend this book 3/10.

An industry fable of an executive who gets saved by a young assistant after the company is acquired. The assistance helps by reshaping the meeting culture for the whole executive team. The author is a good writer (this is my third of his books), and the book is enjoyable, but no big takeaways.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P91. Will scoured the DVD case, looking for the running time of the film, Ninety-six minutes. And suddenly, it dawned on him. A crew of thousands of men and women working with tens of millions of dollars required one and a half hours to tell a story that spanned more than ten years in the lives of two people. The characters met, they didn't like each other, they hooked up with other people, they broke up, they became friends, they fell in love, and they got married. All in ninety-six minutes! And with complete resolution. Unbelievable, Will thought. At work, we take longer than that to summarize just a week's worth of business activity, and even then, we never seem to resolve anything. Convinced that the big problem with weekly staff meetings was simply their length, Will suddenly was anxious for work to start the next day.

  • P116. "The stuff you're supposed to be talking about here should be more important for you than whether the Van Trapp family escapes from Austria is for moviegoers. Heck, the issues you talk about here are what puts bread on your tables and keeps you all employed. How much more could be at stake?" No one argued.

  • P121. He began, "I know that the next couple of hours might be tedious, and there are a hundred other things we'd all rather be doing right now. But let's keep a few things in mind while we're here today. First, our competitors are hoping we get this wrong. They're hoping we under allocate resources for advertising or hire too many administrative staff. And our employees are desperate for us to get this right because every decision we make today has a profound impact on someone's job, not to mention their morale. In their minds, our credibility is on the line. And finally, I don't want to be sitting at my desk nine months from now thinking, "Why didn't I pay closer attention during that budget review?' So let's sit forward in our seats and do this right so we can feel good about it for the rest of the year."

  • P129. You should be mining for conflict and make sure you hear from everyone.

  • P167. The missing elements of meetings:

    • Daily check-in = Daily headline news (5 min.)

    • Weekly Tactical = Weekly sitcom/Crime Drama (1 hr.)

    • Monthly strategic = Movie (2 hrs.)

    • Quarterly Off-sire review = Mini-series (6 hrs. or more)

  • P185. Have a quarterly 3-hour meeting with two agenda items that get discussed in depth. The manager will pick two people to lead the two topics and do the research to bring to the meeting.

  • P192. He then looked around the room. "Okay, this isn't a democracy, but I'd like to know where everyone stands." They each weighed in.

  • P224. Meetings are boring because they lack drama. Or conflict. This is a shame because most meetings have plenty of potential for drama, which is essential for keeping human beings engaged. Unfortunately, rather than mining for that golden conflict, most leaders of meetings seem to be focused on avoiding tension and ending their meetings on time. And while these may seem like noble pursuits, they lie at the heart of bad meetings.

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