The one-sentence summary
Reducing the number and length of meetings increases productivity.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
- Subtitled The modern meeting standard for successful organizations, this short book sets out seven principles of how meeting etiquette can be substantially improved.
- We have too many meetings, and too many bad ones.
- Traditional meetings create a culture of compromise and kill our sense of urgency.
- Culprits are convenience meetings (so called because no one wants to write things down clearly), formality meetings (called for reasons unclear, such as status meetings), and social meetings (purely for connection or to take a breather, but this may not suit everyone present).
- The principles are:
1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made
(Nb. There is something of a disconnect here between the author’s notion that the only two activities worth convening a meeting for are conflict and coordination – if the decision has indeed already been made but the objections are forceful, then things will get messy)
2. Move fast and end on schedule
3. Limit the number of attendees
4. Reject the unprepared
5. Produce committed action plans
6. Refuse to be informational. Reading the memo beforehand is mandatory
7. Work alongside brainstorms, not against them
- These are not meetings:
- Conversations (two people talking, and normally effective)
- Group work sessions (a group productively generating something)
- Brainstorms (idea generation – but it’s not a meeting)
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- The idea of meetings as weapons of mass interruption is fun.
- The mathematics of agreement is interesting: with 2 people you need one agreement for unanimity; with 4 you need 6; and with 10 you need 45.
- The Latin root of the word decision is Decir: to kill off possibilities. Not enough executives exercise this quality effectively.
- The VP of No is a person you may recognise in your office – someone who kills ideas but never contributes a better one.
- Verbal wandering is a good way to describe the course of many meetings.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- Much of what is suggested here is both admirable and obvious. Whilst most would agree with the sentiments, the hard bit would be applying it in a bureaucratic company, particularly if you are not the boss.