Epistles of Thomas

February 3, 2009

Death by Meeting review

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 0:53
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Patrick Lencioni, Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. ix + 259 pp. 0787968056. 9780787968052.

Aunt Joan lent me this book to read and I think the title explains why! We have a lot of meetings at work and I’m sure she would rather be playing with the children than listening to a bunch of old men ;-). I read it over the last couple of days. It’s a quick read and a real page turner! In the following review I just want to give a few thoughts as it relates to church meetings.

The book begins with an extended “fable” about executive meetings at a software company. The meetings are really bad until a young whippersnapper stops taking his prozac and goads his boss into action. The book focuses on having more meetings of different types; each focussing on a certain area. There are four types of meetings that he advocates, from daily to quarterly:

-Daily Check-In
-Weekly Tactical
-Monthly Strategic (or Ad Hoc Strategic)
-Quarterly Off-Site Review

The Daily Check-In is done standing up so that it will not be prolonged more than 10 minutes. During this meeting team members tell each other what is planned for the day. I can’t see that this is much use to pastoral staff because often their day starts outside the office with breakfast appointments or something and they don’t get in until later when the other staff have left for a lunch appointment or study time.

The Weekly Tactical meeting focuses “exclusively on tactical issues of immediate concern.” This meeting begins with the “lightning round” in which team members voice their top two or three priorities for the week. It sets the tone for the rest of the meeting by letting everyone know what issues are being engaged that week. This is followed by a progress report that, in the case of a business, deals with revenue, inventory, customer satisfaction, etc. For a church it could include similar numbers: offering, attendance, Sunday school involvement, etc. However, there is a great hesitation to measure a church using such metrics because it is seen as non-spiritual. These two items should conclude after 15 minutes and then the agenda is set for that week’s meeting based on the items that have been brought up. This would certainly be helpful in focussing pastoral meetings.

The Monthly Strategic meeting is “the most interesting and in many ways the most important type of meeting any team has. It is also the most fun. It is where executives wrestle with, analyze, debate, and decide upon critical issues (but only a few) that will affect the business in fundamental ways” (241). At church there is a monthly elders’ meeting and it involves all of the elders and all of the pastoral staff. The point of the monthly strategic in this paradigm is that some issues which occur during the weekly meetings but cannot be solved there can be sent to the monthly meeting to be dealt with. However, at church the weekly meetings only involve pastors and although the pastors are present at the monthly elder meetings they are non-voting members and can only recommend. In other words, nothing can be parked during a weekly meeting and sent to the monthly meeting. I suppose we could have monthly pastoral meeting but some of the issues can only be dealt with by the elder’s board. I’m not familiar enough with how publicly traded companies work. How does the board of directors function in relation to the President, CEO, CFO, etc.?

The last type of meeting is the Quarterly Off-Site Review. During this meeting the strategic direction is reassessed. The team assesses their behaviour as a team. There should be a personnel review which focuses on stars and poor performers. This allows them to work with these people, ensuring that their stars are well cared for and poor performers are helped to succeed. Lastly is a competitive and industry review. Some of these things can be tackled during a pastoral quarterly review. For example, we had a English ministry retreat last fall and covered many of these areas. Obviously, churches should be loath to consider others as competitors but it would definitely help to have an idea of the trends with Evangelicalism because our congregants are certainly free to hop church and we can learn from each other.

The two things that Lencioni emphasises with regard to meetings is conflict and drama. It is these two things that make movies entertaining and he feels that attending meetings should be at least as desirous as going to the movies because meetings are interactive and we have a vested interest in them. However, the last thing a church meeting expects is conflict and drama. There definitely has to be a sea change in how meetings are conducted and attended if we are going to view conflict as a positive part of a church meeting. I definitely think there can be a place for it but would have to be very carefully cultivated within a loving environment. I think this will be a little harder to accomplish than Lencioni indicates, even in a corporate setting. Another issue with regards to churches is that most of the workers are volunteers and there is a different scale of competencies and motivation and reward. On the whole it is a very interesting book and provides some food for thought. I’m ready to return to the business world and knock ’em dead! 😀


1 Comment »

  1. Yes Tom, you know me well.

    Comment by mamajfong — February 3, 2009 @ 12:06 | Reply

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