Read This Before Our Next Meeting Hardcover – Aug 3 2011
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"Compromise, status quo, deficient organization–like a physician’s bag overflowing with powerful medicines, Al Pittampalli’s new book delivers the prescription for an organization suffering from meeting malaise."
—Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
"If you find yourself withering away in endless meetings, if your organization suffers from consensus constipation, if you can’t seem to get a decision made this centur y, read this book."
—Russell Bishop, senior editor at large, Huffington Post, and author of Workarounds That Work
"I dutifully avoid meetings whenever possible, which is pretty much always. If I were to go to meetings, though, I’d want Al to run them. And if that wasn’t possible, I’d send this book to everyone else ahead of time and wait for them to cancel the meeting or run it exactly how this book describes."
—Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity
"Sucked dry, worn down, numbed out: pick your metaphor. Any way you cut it, bad meetings are killing you and your organization. This book will be your shield and sword to get your life back. Now we just need to sort out email."
—Michael Bungay Stanier, author of Do More Great Work --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Al Pittampalli is founder of The Modern Meeting Company, a group that helps organizations transform meetings, make decisions, and coordinate complex teams. As an IT advisor at Ernst & Young LLP, Al witnessed the meeting problem firsthand at Fortune 500 companies all across the country. Now, Al is part of a new generation that brings fresh eyes to stuck business systems. Al is a speaker and blogger on making revolutionary change happen and is a graduate of the NYU Stern School of Business. You can learn more about Al at: Modernmeetingstandard.com and sixmonthmba.com.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Describing Microsoft Office email appointments as `weapons of mass interruption', Al SCREAMS that it is too easy for people to call a meeting... without thinking or caring about the impact it will have on others. "Its simply what work is about."
Pittampalli believes meetings should be held AFTER a decision has been made, but only if you are willing to change your mind.
I especially like the summary made by other Amazon book reviewer, "Furthermore, [Pittampalli] points out how meetings have become stalling tactics and havens for complacency and collective indecision in too many organisations around the world. Too many meetings with too many people (or the wrong ones) leads to inaction, compromise and mediocrity. `Less talk, more action' should be the new mantra.
Key lessons and methods of enacting a "modern meeting":
- If you make a decision and will not change your mind... write the memo, don't call a meeting. If you think you may change your mind, call a meeting to discuss your decision. Invite only those who are affected directly by your decision.
- brainstorming sessions are NOT meetings; but be clear on what you are "storming" and invite ONLY those who can help\
- Circulate "homework/pre-meeting work" reading materials before the meeting; insist that everyone read them beforehand. If they haven't done the reading, they have "elected" to not have a say at the meeting or ask "could you remind me again...".Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If the answer is `a lot' or `most of them' then you really must read Al Pittampalli's excellent new book `Read This Before Our Next Meeting`.
The latest title from The Domino Project, Al's book highlights all that is wrong with the `traditional meeting' and suggests a better, more productive way to do business through the `Modern Meeting`.
Describing Microsoft Office email Appointments as `weapons of mass interruption', Al hits the nail on the head when he says that it's far too easy for people to call team meetings with little care or thought for the impact they might have on the recipients that have to sit through 'another bad meeting'.
Furthermore, he points out how meetings have become stalling tactics and havens for complacency and collective indecision in too many organisations around the world. Too many meetings with too many people (or the wrong ones) leads to inaction, compromise and mediocrity. `Less talk, more action' should be the new mantra.
Some of the key themes and ideas I took from the book which I will be trying to implement in future include;
- Thinking really, really carefully before calling a meeting and who you should invite. (Sounds obvious but is a very important point to make).
- Taking your time to circulate reading materials before the meeting and INSISTING that all attendees read them beforehand. If they turn up for the meeting without reading, then you are perfectly within your rights to ask them to leave. Time is precious and you certainly don't have time to go through the background info at the beginning. These types of `informaional meetings' are a big waste of your and everyone else's time.
- Simply turning up for a meeting isn't enough. All attendees should be expected to `turn up' in mind and spirit and contribute something to the meeting. Make it clear that they must add some value to proceedings (asking questions, sharing insight, offering to take on task) otherwise they aren't welcome or necessary and won't be invited to future meetings.
- Make sure that all meetings have a clear purpose, clear objective(s) and end on time. Put a big visual countdown timer on display so people know that you mean business.
- Ensure that someone makes good and proper notes from the meeting which are circulated soon after with clear action points for all attendees. I would actually suggest that if it's important, the person calling the meeting should also take their own notes and follow things up personally. Ideally, all attendees should be making their own notes too and taking responsibility for actions in the actual meeting (far too many do neither and then can't remember what was agreed to).
Like all Domino Project titles, this highly useful book is deliberately fast-paced and designed to be read in around 1hr (I read mine via Kindle App on my Windows Phone on the bus journey home from work).
So, if you're sick of feeling like your time is being wasted by pointless meetings or are simply looking for ways to improve your professional capacity and productivity at work, then I highly recommend you grab hold of a copy. Even better if you can share it with your colleagues too so they can understand where you are coming from.
Perhaps you could even hold a `Modern Meeting' to discuss how to roll them out across the organisation?
My impression was the author was mostly familiar with internal departmental meetings. I doubt if he has ever tried to resolve a very controversial problem or led complex project. His notion of a meeting is very narrow. His rules may work for departmental meetings but I doubt if they work with collaborative efforts outside the organization particularly if some of the partners are a little reluctant.
This is not to say I disagreed with everything. He does have some common sense rules that could apply to many aspects of management. I do believe time-lines and agendas are good tools. I agree that for many meetings limiting the attendance is more productive but to make it a universal rule for all meeting is a mistake. Action plans after a meeting are good. I agreed that everyone should do their homework before the meeting but if you kick out those that don't it would be easy to submarine any project you don't like.
My biggest disagreement with this vision is he belief that the leader should make a decision before the meeting has started. I value and respect the views of my department heads. I frequently change my preconceived notions based on information they possess. Better decisions are made with more facts. They are also more likely to support the decision if they help craft it and understand the reason behind it. Top down has its place but it is a mistake for many many issues.
The author has geared a book that is more design for "How" to solve a problem. His methods will not work for "Why" solve the problem. If the organization does not understand the why, it is often pointless to worry about the how. I suggest the author read up on change management.
The author has selected a topic that is a major issue in many organizations but he needs to do more research and rework his proposed solutions.
One of the things I *LOVED* about Al Pittampalli's, 'Read this Before Our Next Meeting' was the time it took to read it. Swiped through (kindle app on iPad) in less time than most 'traditional' meetings take to slog through. Like a quick trip to Chipotle's for a Burrito Bowl - it reads like nutritional fast food but leaves you seven-course meal satisfied - with seven principles for serving-up the 'modern' meeting.
Pittampalli leads and writes by example, the seemingly intentional brevity of the book appears to mirror his assertions of how you need to conduct your next meeting - with purpose, punctuality and preparedness. Meeting's must produce an action plan and it is your job as leader - to follow-up on all participant's progress.
In true Domino Project fashion, 'Read this...' delivers more like a manifesto (blogifesto?). Pittampalli gives voice to our collective consciousness riding just beneath surface:
"Like all human beings, we're terrified of making decisions. In the face of pressing, difficult decisions, we stall. Meetings are a socially acceptable and readily available way of doing so."
In the seven principles of modern meetings, Pittampalli pulls no punches on (the modern meeting) purpose. If you're not actively participating there's simply no room for you at the table next time. If a meeting needs to be called to advance a decision - then the meeting needs to be about conflict and coordination. Debate, decide, done!
'Read this...' fulfills with a hearty FAQ / how to. One of my favorite stand-outs for those who always feel that consensus must be reached:
Q: "What if I end up making a decision that not everyone agrees with?"
A: "Congratulations are in order. You're a leader."
My only criticism of this book is that it was not out a year ago when I was planning a huge conference for the very first time. We served a lot of pizza at our planning meetings. Among many other things, I learned that meetings are for meeting, not for eating.
I consider meetings a chance for me to turn my brain off and stare silently out the window.
It's not that I think meetings are completely unnecessary, mind you. When I run them, I love 'em. But that's because I keep a tight schedule, expect everyone to know what's going on before they hit the room and assume that people will ask pointed questions when given the opportunity.
But they too often do not, and until now, I had no way to teach them any better.
Thanks to Al Pittampalli, I do.
I don't always attend meetings, but when I do, I make sure they're the modern kind. Here are the rules:
Meet only to support a decision that has already been made.
Move fast. End on schedule.
Limit the number of attendees.
Reject the unprepared.
Produce committed action plans.
Refuse to be informational. Read the memo, it's mandatory.
Work with brainstorms, not against them.
Now get to work. And stop inviting me to sucky meetings.
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.