Modern Fables

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Patrick Lencioni is a best-selling business author, acclaimed public speaker, and the founder and president of The Table Group, Inc., a management consulting firm that focuses on organizational health. His books include Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Death by Meeting, and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. His latest book is The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.

The success of his modern fables reminds me of John Guaspari’s fable about quality, I Know It When I See It. Originally released in 1985 and still going, it remains one of the most popular books ever published by American Management Association. Quick to read and easy to stick management lessons is a formula that works.

An unlikely management guru (Lencioni never went to business school and shuns management tomes), he avoids jargon and complicated strategic models. Though he specializes in teams and organizational vitality, Lenicioni has something to say about time wasters. One of the biggest in any organization large, medium or small are meetings.

“The four different kinds of meetings I recommend are the daily check-in, the weekly tactical, the monthly strategic, and the quarterly offsite review.”

“The daily check-in (5-10 minutes) is just that, a quick huddle to find out what everybody is doing. There’s no agenda and no problem solving, just a basic social check-in so people know what their team members are doing.”

“The second kind is a weekly tactical meeting (45-90 minutes), which is where people talk about how the team is doing against near term goals.”

“This is the place they can discuss the problems they need to resolve to accomplish those goals. It’s not about strategy or brainstorming–it’s about solving problems holding the team back.”

“The third kind is the monthly strategic or topical meeting (2-4 hours). You take one big topic that will have an impact on your future and spend two hours or more wresling it to the ground.”

“These meetings are fun because they’re focused on solving a big problem. People brainstorm, push each other, and really draw on their unique perspectives and various levels of experience.”

“The last kind of meeting is a quarterly off-site review (1-2 days). This sort of meeting has often become of boondoggle – with exotic locations and too many social activities. These meetings are costly and rarely provide a lasting benefit.”

“For me, the quarterly offsite allows people to step back from the business, take a breath, and re-assess where they stand. The topic can be anything – competitors, the market, what your best employees are doing – anything. The function is to help people regain perspective and view the business in a more holistic, long-term manner. It’s about slowing down to go fast.”

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