Meeting Formats & Timing

Offsite meetings are free from distractions.
Offsite meetings are free from distractions.

Drawing from Patrick Lencioni’s work in Death by Meeting, there are specific meeting formats that we find to be very effective. Lencioni says that, “most meetings lack context and purpose.” There are four distinct meetings that teams should have on a regular basis:

Daily 5 Minute Stand Up – This is often the most difficult to implement, but it is a very powerful tool in aligning team activities for the day. Also, it prevents the need for emails to coordinate activities. Keeping these meetings short is critical to their success, and making them a standing meeting will ensure they do not run on. Remember that the purpose of this meeting is to align the day’s activities – nothing more.  Any issues identified here need to be addressed in a separate meeting after this one closes.

Weekly Tactical – This meeting should last between 45 and 90 minutes depending on what needs to be discussed. Resist the temptation to make this a status update meeting.  Share any information ahead of time and only focus on specific issues during the meeting, rather than go over what is working. By all means spend a short time at the opening to celebrate successes. This sets a very positive tone for the meeting in general. The agenda for this meeting should be made AT the meeting (a real-time agenda). This way, only the topics that need to be discussed will be included, keeping the meeting concise and timely.

Monthly Strategic – So far, we have considered a daily activity review and weekly tactical review, but to integrate strategic thinking into the organization there needs to be a regular review of the longer-term strategic initiatives. Timing for this meeting will vary, but expect to need two to four hours to allow sufficient time for productive dialogue. The purpose here is to delve deeply into a few key strategic areas without being sidetracked by tactical or time-critical issues. This is an ideal time to bring out the Strategic Plan and monitor progress against the plan. Are the tactics being employed effective at moving toward the expected strategic goal? Are the strategies identified in the plan effective in moving toward the expected goal? What new information has come to light that will effect our earlier decisions? Are there changes that need to be implemented to achieve the plan goals?

Quarterly Offsite – This is an opportunity to take the leadership team offsite and have a detailed plan review. Every month, one or two strategies have been reviewed at a monthly meeting. Now, this is the opportunity to review the entire Strategic Plan, monitor progress against the Goals and make course corrections as needed. Taking this meeting offsite allows for attention to be focused on the task at hand, free from distractions and interruptions. By having this review every quarter, strategic thinking will be embedded in the leadership team and ensure that new information relating to external forces is integrated into the plan in a timely fashion.

Adding structure to your meetings can help make them more effective. Have you used any of these specific meeting formats? If so, what were your results?