Friday, November 14, 2008

It's about slowing down to go fast

A lot of my friends who aren't in coaching have talked about the number of meetings on their schedules each day. One of them said he has 8-10 meetings during a typical work day.

So this past summer, he said he picked up a copy of the book "Death by Meeting," in which the author makes a case not for fewer meetings, but for better ones.

While the typical coach won't have 10 meetings a day, we have our share of them, though most coaches are generally efficient with their meeting time.

In an interview last year, the author of the book, Patrick Lencioni, argued that "bad meetings are the most painful problem in business."

According to Lencioni (who lives in No. Cal):

"If they're boring, that's a good sign that they're problematic. If people dread going to them, that's a pretty good sign. People should look forward to going to meetings and they should not be bored when they're there.

Lencioni compares a good meeting to a good movie, saying: "A great movie hooks its audience early – within the first 10 minutes – and has enough drama to hold their attention. There should be real conflict taking place with something worth caring about at stake. And in the end, there should be some sort of resolution."

He also encourages those running meetings to engage in a candid discussion, one that can sometimes be uncomfortable:

"The truth is meetings aren't supposed to be easy and comfortable. They're supposed to be places where difficult decisions are made. If you take the drama and the conflict out, you're not going to be talking about the right things or getting to the heart of the issue. You're not going to engage people and get the best from them either."

The author describes four types of meetings: The daily check-in, the weekly tactical, the monthly strategic, and the quarterly offsite review. Here's how he defines each one:

1. The daily check-in: "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."

2. The weekly tactical: "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 that are holding the team back."

3. The monthly strategic or topical meeting: "You take one big topic that will have an impact on your future and spend two hours or more wrestling 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."

4. The quarterly off-site review: "This sort of meeting has often become a boondoggle – with exotic locations and too many social activities. These meetings are costly and rarely provide a lasting benefit. For me, the quarterly offsite lets people 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."

Chuck Daly used to say that coaches are "forced " to make more meetings than almost any leader:

-- Practices leading up to game
-- Shootaround
-- Walkthroughs
-- Film sessions
-- Pregame meeting
-- Timeouts (your own timeouts, opponent's timeouts, TV timeouts )
-- Halftime meeting, halftime film edit, halftime chalk talk
-- Post game meeting
-- Practice the day after the game
-- Meeting to watch the film from the game the night before
-- A brief pre-practice on-court meeting, followed by a full practice
-- And after every practice, the team comes together for a brief meeting

On second thought, coaches do have a lot of meetings.