How meetings can drive managerial decision-making

Meetings and managerial decision-making

Meetings take up a lot of time. But what if they helped guide managerial decision-making?

Just came across the writings of this guy Art Petty and specifically this blog about ’17 Ways Your Strategy Will Fail.’ I’ve written about this a couple of times — namely, that a ‘strategic plan’ is different from an ‘operational plan’ — so it was interesting to me. Here’s his basic list of reasons (I won’t do all of them):

  • No shared view of what strategy is
  • Confusion over who owns strategy
  • Cross-purposes over vocabulary and key concepts
  • Management team isn’t functioning as a team, but rather a series of individuals
  • Strategy is treated as a one-or-two-time event, not a continuous process
  • Power, politics, and status quo thinking
  • Expecting templates to churn out transformative results
  • Long-game strategy in a time when adaptability is more relevant
  • Letting strategy determine budget

There’s more — you can read them all at the link above — but I’ll stop there. All of this stuff could not be more true if it tried. Let me focus on one aspect of it all, though.

The great flaw in strategy and managerial decision-making

This idea of “strategy treated as a one-or-two-time event” is interesting, and I think I’ve seen that from almost every team/department/senior leadership team I’ve ever worked with. People always have these big offsite meetings once or twice a year to talk about strategy and bring people from different offices together, but by the very nature of doing that, you waste a lot of time with catch-up and operational issues and don’t really discuss strategy. Your managerial decision-making? It’s shot.

Plus, if business changes so quickly, isn’t strategy and decision-making something that should be constantly evolving? Here’s what Petty says:

Strategy is treated like an event, not a continuous process. Too many firms relegate the critical dialog about future directions and opportunities to one or two offsite events every year. It’s a constant dialog, not a one or two-shot activity.

This is what I never get about how most orgs are set up, right? People are in meetings all the time, but about what exactly? Typically the topics fall into two camps, I think:

  • Revenue/Growth (5-10 percent of meetings)
  • Deliverables and tasks and action items (the rest, give or take)

That’s a generalization, but I’d say it’s kind of accurate. I will say this, though: any meetings that claim to be around “talent strategy” are a total farce.

I know that “strategy” feels like a big word and an important thing you need to tackle, so I understand the mentality of doing two big deep-dives on it annually. But there’s a more effective way.

How meetings can lead to better managerial decision-making

Most senior leadership teams meet with each other, either in-person or Skype/conference call, at least once a week. Oftentimes it’s more than that. Let’s say it’s twice a week, right? That’s eight times per month.

If you have eight senior leadership meetings in a month, here’s how I’d break it down:

  • 5 dedicated to a specific area of the company and what’s going on there (Sales, Marketing, Talent, Finance, and Operations, let’s say)
  • In those 5 meetings, no topics can be broached outside of the “theme” of the meeting
  • 1 meeting around “deeper questions” such as What do we want to be as a company and even some discussions of failure (“Fire yourself” meetings)
  • 1 meeting around financial metrics
  • 1 meeting around strategy: Are we inline with what we’ve been discussing? What do we want to change?

The real key here is that after the financial meeting and the strategy meeting, those senior leaders need to go and summarize those meetings to their direct reports, and to the reports of their direct reports. Move it down the chain, baby! It’s gotta go both ways.

If you did those eight meetings/month in that way above, you’d probably come out of every month with a pretty good understanding of your money (what’s important to most people), your talent (what’s important to almost no one but everyone claims it is), your strategy (mostly ditto from the last parenthetical), and even some idea of how your team is supposed to fit together.

By the way, here’s another amazing resource on more productive meetings from HelloFocus.

Ted Bauer