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Good Meetings: The Death-by-Meetings Quiz

Take the quiz by Pat Lencioni’s firm, The Table Group, to determine if your approach to meetings needs work.
COLLABORATORS The Table Group
Death-by-Meeting quiz

"Death by Meeting"

Are your meetings boring as all get out? Are you concerned that your staff hates them or questions their purpose? Take The Table Group’s Death-by-Meetings Quiz to see if you could be doing a better job. Then check your score, using the guide directly below the questions:

1. Do team members question the usefulness of meetings?

2. Do you find that critical issues are avoided or overlooked during meetings?

3. Do you wonder if team members are holding back during meetings?

4. Do you find that meetings end without resolution of critical issues?

5. Do you discuss administrative, tactical and strategic topics during the same meetings?

6. Are important discussions cut short because of time constraints?

7. Is your team reluctant to go off-site more than once a year to review the state of the organization and business?

If you answered NO to all of these questions, congratulations! You have one of those rare teams that has mastered the art of meetings.

If you answered YES to 1-4 of these questions, you could probably improve your organization’s decision-making and overall effectiveness by making a few adjustments to the structure and content of your meetings.

If you answered YES to 5 or more of these questions, your meetings are probably causing you to waste considerable resources, both human and financial, and creating confusion within your organization. Significant meeting changes are needed.


Provided below are brief explanations of selected questions and answers from the quiz.

Do team members question the usefulness of meetings?

When meetings are properly organized and executed, team members see them as a vital and integral part of doing their jobs, not as an ancillary activity outside of real work.

 

Do you find that critical issues are avoided or overlooked during meetings?

In many organizations, too much time during meetings is spent discussing issues that are not critical to the short or long term success of the business. This frustrates team members who want to focus their energy on topics that will have the greatest impact on the success of the organization.

 

Do you wonder if team members are holding back during meetings?

One of the keys to a great meeting is that team members are confident that all important opinions are being surfaced and considered. When team members suspect that others are holding back — whether or not it’s true — it becomes next to impossible to achieve real buy-in and commitment.

 

Do you find that meetings end without resolution of critical issues?

Though a team cannot guarantee that every decision it makes is correct, it can ensure that meetings end with clarity about what has been decided. If critical issues remain unresolved when a meeting is set to end, that meeting should be continued, either immediately or some time shortly thereafter, until resolution can be achieved.

 

Do you discuss administrative, tactical and strategic topics during the same meetings?

Combining too many types of issues during one meeting creates confusion and frustration among team members who find it difficult to shift back and forth among administrative, tactical and strategic topics.

 

Are important discussions cut short because of time constraints?

Ending a meeting on time is not necessarily a sign of success. In fact, when time constraints prevent important discussions from running their course, there is a good chance that not enough time is being set aside for critical issues. When it comes to making key decisions, there are few activities that can justify ending a meeting prematurely.

 

Is your team reluctant to go off-site more than once a year to review the state of the organization and business?

Though busy schedules make it difficult for teams to leave the office for a day or two every quarter, there is no activity more important to keeping an organization on track than stepping back on a regular basis and reviewing the state of the organization, the culture and the team. Failing to do so may seem to save time in the short term, but over the long haul it sets the team back because problems are not identified and addressed until they become costly and difficult to resolve.

THE PLUS

These 10 “yes/no” questions aren’t the only ones you can ask if you want to assess your meetings mastery. Leadership Strategies, a consultancy based in Atlanta, offers a quiz in which you rate from 1 (“nearly never”) to 5 (“almost always”) the validity of 14 statements. We were especially fond of statement No. 12: “The meeting produced a valuable result that could not have been achieved without a meeting.”

We also enjoyed a seven-part multiple-choice quiz we found on the blog of Mark Hamade, COO of PKM Steel in Salina, Kansas. Hamade’s seventh question emphasizes the speed of distributing minutes after a meeting has ended.

There are also quizzes that zero on what you might call meeting peripherals: A nonprofit called Blue Green Meetings offers a questionnaire to determine how “green” your meetings are. (“Was leftover food donated to a local food bank or charity?”)

Find more questions and helpful tips on The Table Group web site.

Comments

  1. It’s important that meetings have a purpose.
    It’s important that the purpose is known and communicated.
    It’s important that the purpose is addressed.
    It’s important that action items result.
    It’s important that there is a process for follow up.
    It’s important that there is a feedback process and after action assessment.

  2. What about in cultures (like Sweden’s) where meetings also have strong cultural meanings associated with them, in addition to the USA’s more pragmatic, get-it-done data exchanges? It’s impossible not to plan another meeting at each meeting already held. There are positives to this cultural norm, but how can such meetings be honed to be more effective, less time consuming for their own sake — or is it inevitable? Have you any Swedes on staff who can comment? Tack så mycket.

  3. Great question, Robert. We have no Swedes on staff who can comment, but I’ve forwarded your question to The Table Group. We’ll see what they have to say.

    In the meantime, I’ve done some online research on the etiquette of doing business in Sweden. Based on that research, the short answer to your question is: Yes, it’s inevitable that your meetings in Sweden are going to be time-consuming. Below I’ve quoted an answer from the web site kwintessential.co.uk:

    “The first meeting may be low key and very matter of fact. A decision will never be made in the first meeting. At this stage the Swedes will be evaluating you, your company and your proposal. Several meetings are required before all details are cleared and questions answered.”

  4. Good news, Robert. Jeff Gibson, vice president of consulting for The Table Group, has looked at your question. Here’s his answer:

    Thank you for your question about the cultural differences of how meetings should work. Inevitably, culture is going to affect the nature of a team’s meetings – whether that is the corporate culture, or a national culture. The real trick to great meetings is two-fold.

    First, the meetings need to have the right “context.” This means they need to be focused on the right content and not trying to accomplish too much at one time. In Death by Meeting, we propose every leadership team should have four different meetings focused separately on administrative, tactical and immediate issues, strategic questions or long-term developmental topics. Once a team implements this model, it’s much easier to stay on topic and fully resolve questions. And, it’s also appropriate at the end of meetings to discuss what’s next. That may be a follow-up meeting, or an effort to communicate the outcomes of the meeting to the organization.

    The second component of a great meeting is that they include conflict. Now, this word can be somewhat disconcerting in different cultures. But, the intent is that in meetings people should not hold back their opinions. If you don’t encourage everyone to engage in debate and dialogue, you will never get the best answer. This doesn’t mean it has to be loud and argumentative. It just has to deal with the true perspectives of all participants. And, to make this happen, if you require having subsequent meetings to get into details or to let people think about the issue further, that’s certainly OK. What you must avoid, however, is the fear of actually disagreeing with each other. This has to happen somewhere, otherwise you’ll end up with a mediocre decision that everyone is not fully committed to. And, that has long-lasting consequences for an organization.

    I hope that helps some.

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