I have bought all the Domino Project books and have learned a great deal from all of them, so I jumped when this next installment was released. I should have skipped it.
The title, the blurb and the promise of the book is enticing. We all could dramatically eliminate the number of meetings we have, but for me this book falls short of that promise - at least in terms of providing a realistic way for replacing the current meeting framework at most companies and organizations.
The ideas are okay and some will come off as extreme to some readers. They did to me. Here are the 7 Principles of the Modern Meeting Standard
1. Meet only to support a decision that has already been made.
2. Move fast. End on schedule.
3. Limit the number of attendees.
4. Reject the unprepared.
5. Produce committed action plans.
6. Refuse to be informational. Read the memo, it's mandatory.
7. Work with brainstorms, not against them.
The premise of the book is centered on two truths that will have you smirking and nodding your head:
1. We have too many meetings.
2. We have too many bad meetings.
If we cut to the recommendation, Pittampalli is recommending that we radically rethink what a meeting is and instead of status and informational updates, meetings will be to share decisions that have already been made and to create action plans. These two points are great in theory, but I think the execution and practicality falls flat.
I love putting the onus on the meeting organizer to be the decision-maker, the true leader of their projects. We all want increased decision-making power in our organizations. With too much on our plates, it makes sense to push down decision-making to the front lines.
However, think about this for a moment - decisions now will be made before the meeting. How does one go about gathering the data and information that normally would come from meeting attendees, the experts in their functional areas of expertise?
If input is needed, the meeting organizer will need to get that input before the meeting....in a one-on-one meeting/conversation. I wonder what happens if you have a large decision to be made with multiple people and functional areas involved. Do you have 7 half hour long discussions? To me this is not practical. If it's practical to you, buy the book.
The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is now mandatory according to Pittampalli. "In order to keep modern meetings strictly in support of decisions, informational meetings are cancelled. For this to be possible, managers will write memos instead, but everyone must commit to reading them. In a culture of reading, informational meetings are no longer necessary."
Nice idea. Practicality level? Low to 'not going to happen' on my scale. In a world where employees are already overwhelmed with email and doing more work (read two or three jobs) than in the past, who's going to have time to read more memos on topics? If you raised your hand, then great, this book and its methods are for you.
I'm not banking on the ability of everyone in the organization to provide 'to the point' memos that give me the right balance of information and next steps I need to get my head around key topics.
Two more points that had me shaking my head:
- Eliminate status meetings altogether by using BaseCamp or other technology tools.
- Communicate bad news via a recorded video that you send out or hold office hours if people want to talk to you.
The first idea sounds pretty cool - no more Monday morning status meetings with your boss. I still think that status meetings if done right are a great way to bond with team members, keep up on what's going on in the organization and get a feel for the next leaders in your organization.
As for communicating bad news via a recorded message, seriously? I think that goes against HR 101, but if that's the kind of hands-off and hiding behind technology company you want to be part of, go for it.
The book is not all bad. I love the intent and the inspirational aspect of it. One idea in particular is something I'm going to implement immediately: No Meeting Minutes, only Action Plans.
There are no minutes coming out of the Modern Meeting, only Action Plans. This is a great idea as it focuses on 3 main components that are critical to moving things forward in an organization:
- What actions are committing to?
- Who is responsible for each action?
- When will those actions be completed?
This book is a pass for me, but it might work for you.