Tuesday, November 01, 2011

"Book" Review (not counted) - Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampali; I got this when it was free for Kindle. It's really an essay and not a "book," by my definition-- it's not a Kindle Single either.  It is a simple 80 page manifesto for changing how we do meetings.  You can visit his website at ModernMeetingStandard.com.

I work in a College of Business and I often joke to myself "How many MBAs does it take to run an efficient meeting?" The correct answer is either "zero" or "more MBAs than we have on faculty now." I lean toward "zero."  It's amazing to me that we don't incorporate a class on how to hold meetings into curriculum.

Pittampali's suggestions for creating the "Modern Meeting" are almost identical to my own when I ask myself what I would do differently if I ran things.  My college violates just about every one of his tenets.

The author's Modern Meeting:
1. Supports a decision that has already been made.
2. Moves fast and ends on schedule.
3. Limits the number of attendees.
4. Rejects the unprepared.
5. Produces committed action plans.
6. Refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.
7. Works alongside a culture of brainstorming.

"The Modern Meeting focuses on the only two activities worth convening for: conflict and coordination" (l. 286). In other words, the Boss should have already made a decision and informed everyone of it long before, meeting with people individually if necessary.  The meeting simply exists to implement the decision and openly resolve any conflicts about it.  Concrete tasks will be assigned through the meeting:
"If you don't receive an action plan from the meeting I invited you to attend, you have every right not to attend my next one" (l. 375).

Numbers 3, 4, and 6 above are crucial for me. 90% of our meeting time is listening to someone give a report that is purely informational and could have been written in some bullet points emailed out earlier. This is unproductive and inefficient, wasting everyone's time.

But no one wants to read memos before a meeting, just like students who never read textbooks before coming to class.  Just like Sunday school Christians usually never read their lessons or study the text before Sunday or study about what their pastor is preaching on.  We come wanting to be entertained, wanting new information. But that is not the job of the meeting, the job of the meeting is decision and action.

But, we're a College of Business, we should be better. We demand our students be prepared, and so should we. "This is not high school; we strive to be a world-class organization. We can't tolerate your unpreparedness anymore. Unprepared participants are dead weight" (l. 365).  Save the learning for your own time, a meeting is not a seminar.

I recommend reading the book in your spare time, won't take you any longer than a long-form journal article. Then give it to someone who you wish would run meetings better...


Arroway said...

What constitutes a book, by your definition? I think 100 pages is a reasonable basis, what do you think?

JDTapp said...

Well, "pages" are arbitrary. A lot of books have more than 100 pages but only a few words on a page for dramatic effect. I'm basically like the Supreme Court-- I can't describe exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it.

Marie Coiffure said...

Thanks for taking the time to read my book and posting a thoughtful review. Glad you got some value out of it Justin.