PHONE any self-respecting executive and three out of four times, chances are she would be in a meeting. This phenomenon would be quite normal in organizational life since meetings make up the bulk of managerial time. Managers need to constantly interact with subordinates, peers and superiors and meetings are the usual means of communication in the organization.
Being such an important activity, various seminars and books on how to conduct meetings have proliferated. Out of this plethora of information comes a most unusual book that strikes at the heart of this process that pervades organizational life. This book is “Death by Meeting: A leadership fable about solving the most painful problem in business,” written by Patrick Lencioni. The author is president of The Table Group, a San Francisco Bay Area management consulting firm, and best-selling author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”
The book opens with the plight of fictional character Casey McDaniel, founder and CEO of Yip Software, a likeable fellow who more or less keeps his company afloat from year to year. Though his company is the market leader in sports video games, there is a feeling inside and outside the company that perhaps the company has not really plumbed its full potential or in short, has been underachieving.
Things come to a head, when McDaniel, in an attempt to rev up his plodding company, sells out to Playsoft, the nation’s second largest maker of video games, while still maintaining management of the company. Soon, he gets a visit from Playsoft’s head of business development, J. T. Harrison, who quickly points out that McDaniel is conducting really bad meetings and this may put McDaniel’s job on the line.
McDaniel gets unexpected help from his temporary administrative assistant Will Petersen, a budding film and television producer with a psychiatric disorder, who manages to bring to light the reasons for the terrible meetings at the company. Delving into his film and TV knowledge and experience, Petersen uncovers the solutions to the company’s dark secret and proceeds to save the hero of this tale, McDaniel, and the rest of the management team from the horrible consequences of bad meetings. And so this tale ends with the company living happily ever after, meeting after meeting…
Well, the book is definitely not a boring one. What the author prescribes to bring meetings to life, he applied in writing this book. He enlivened the boring topic of “how to conduct meetings” to an extent that “Death by Meeting” becomes an easy read. You can actually breeze through it during your lunch hour. The lightness of the treatment and the non-judgmental approach have made the lessons from the book easier to digest.
This book is a must-read for every executive, manager and supervisor who has had to endure meetings that could bore one to death. In fact, it is a must-read for all CEOs who must make this a must-read for all their executives. Why? If the company owners were to compute the cost of managerial time spent on unproductive meetings, the cost of providing this book to everyone on the management level would be miniscule. This book provides a simple, logical and easy-to-follow framework to bring life into meetings and consequently, life to the organization. Meetings mirror the spirit of the organization.
And so, what was Petersen’s solution to McDaniel’s dilemma? Well, you got to read the book to find out. Like a review of a good movie about to be shown, this review is not about to spill the beans and ruin the mystery of how to avoid “death by meeting.”
Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer May 19, 2004.
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