Death By Meeting: A Leadership Parable
“Death By Meeting” is Patrick Lencioni’s follow up to “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” The book follows a similar structure to the previous book. Both books spend the first three fourths of the book tell a parable of a business that is underperforming. The parable both exposes typical dysfuntions of a team, and then it provides solutions to those problems in story form. Then the final section didactically describes practically how to implement the authors solutions.
While the previous book dealt with teamwork as a whole, this book deals with meetings (you could probably figure that out from the title). The book suggests that the problem with meetings isn’t that we have too many, it’s that we have too few! The author believes we need to have MORE MEETINGS and MORE TYPES of meetings.
The author suggests four types of meetings:
- Daily Check-In – A daily brief meeting to touch base on daily activities.
- Weekly Tactical – A weekly meeting to resolve conflicts between different departments.
- Monthly Strategic – A monthly meeting to discuss and brainstorm strategy
- Quarterly Off-Site Review – A quarterly multi-day meeting to review past perform and discuss potential strategic directions.
Once again Lencioni crafts a compelling narrative which identifies common problems with meetings, and then offers practical solutions. Most weeks I probably average more than one meeting per day. So the idea of “Death by meeting,” easily resonates with me.
The book was most helpful in providing me with a language for why certain meetings are draining and others are energizing. One Lencioni’s gift is making ideas seem obvious and simple.
Unlike “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” this book takes it’s time to get started. You’re a good bit into the book before you get to the first meeting, but even at that point in the book, you still don’t know where the story is going.
While this book covers a more niche subject than the previous book, it’s significantly longer (though still short). The extra length only distracts from from the central ideas of the book.
In Lencioni’s previous book, the parable existed simply to teach through illustration. The characters were all archetypes. Characters were mostly one dimensional because multiple dimensions and sub-plots would distract from the purpose of the book.
“Death By Meeting” feels a bit like the author got a bit over-zealous with the narrative. Instead of following the simplicity of the previous book, the main characters are far too complicated. Where in the previous book, the person who fixes the organization is a new CEO brought in to fix the organization, here the agent of change is the son of a family friend who’s talented but lacks direction that has a personality disorder who accidentally blurts things out when he doesn’t take his medication. The complicated backstory doesn’t do anything to communicate the message of the parable. It just makes you wonder what on earth is going on for the first quarter of the book.
Overall “Death By Meeting” is a helpful and fun book about team meetings that would have benefited from a less complex narrative. The problems identified are related, and the solutions are practical. The book could have used more meat to justify it’s length (even at a short length), but it was certainly worth my time.
If you’ve struggled with meetings, this book might be a helpful book on how increase meeting efficient and teamwork.