Meetings do NOT = Results!

Posted On: March 28

Over the past several years I have had calls from a number of companies that have requested me to come in and help them with “serious issues and problems.” When I arrive there is typically a group of senior leaders huddled in a meeting discussing what should be done. They will tell me that the problem is costing them tens of thousands… millions… or tens of millions of dollars – and it is a “top priority” to get it fixed as soon as possible!!!!!

I will then work with the team to create a strategy for going forward, outline several critical steps, and identify some key data that needs to be collected and reviewed before the next meeting. Several weeks later we will gather again to review progress only for me to find out that… NOTHING has been done. No data has been collected, no decisions have been made, none of the strategies were pursued, and most importantly… no one is being held accountable for not doing ANY of the work we outlined in the last meeting. It is as if they think simply getting together and talking about the problem – is the same as actually working on the problem! Well, it is NOT.

The next time you find yourself in a similar situation here are a few questions to keep in mind that will help you and your team make sure that the meeting actually leads to real, significant and positive results.

10 Key Questions for Ensuring Effective Execution

1. Do we have an extremely clear and vivid vision for exactly what the desired outcome is?

2. Have we identified clear, specific, measurable, quantifiable goals and objectives that will specifically indicate that the appropriate progress is being made?

3. Have we assigned clear responsibility to one individual or a specific team that absolutely understands that they will be held accountable for achieving the desired results?

4. Have specific and firm deadlines been created and communicated to ensure that everyone knows exactly what is due and when it is due?

5. Does the individual/team have all of the resources, time, support, equipment, training, budget… and AUTHORITY to deliver the desired results?

6. Is there a process for tracking and sharing ALL of the critical data and specific performance measurements to all involved parties as the project moves forward?

7. Is there a process for ensuring that achieving the desired results for this project are part of every meeting, on every agenda, and are discussed often to ensure that achieving the goals and objectives are on “top of mind” at all times?

8. Is there a clear reward/punishment system in place so that the person or people who are being held accountable for delivering the desired results clearly understand what is at stake?

9. Is there an individual or team who clearly understands that they are accountable for holding the person or team that is supposed to do this project accountable. In other words, if the project begins to slip, who specifically has the authority to step in and get things back on track?

10. Is there a system in place to review the success or failure of the project after it is finished, so that the organization can learn from their triumphs or mistakes and use those lessons to improve their ability to execute with discipline on the next critical project?

The list above is by no means complete, but if you can go down all 10 of these items and answer “Yes” with great confidence, I am pretty sure that you are doing a good job of creating the circumstances necessary for high levels of accountability and effective execution within your organization.

*** By the way, creating a culture of disciplined execution and high levels of accountability is so critical that several of my key clients such as Abbott Laboratories, Apple and the Mayo Clinic have recently asked me to put together a program specifically on that topic. I have blended the contents from my Creating a Winning Culture workshop with elements from my Coaching for Accountability and High-Performance Teams workshops to build a new program that focuses on instilling an “Ownership Mentality” across the organization so that people hold themselves both personally and mutually accountable for ensuring that the organization is highly effective in achieving the goals and objectives that have been established and delivering the required results. I will keep you in the loop about what I am learning from delivering this new workshop!

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  1. Awesome John! I get this quite a bit. My owners want to talk about how I’m going to get their buildings leased or sold, but want no responsibility for making changes that help the cause.

    One company I work with has lots of different departments working on many projects, which means most of their important employees are in meetings most of each day, leaving almost zero time for takeaways. Worse yet is meetings are poorly run and employees often are chatting about the last meeting during the current meeting, diluting that meeting and running it over time. People then work through lunch to catch up, but oddly enough leave work at 5, regardless of their to-do lists. Also, with departments all over the US, meetings are often call-in and people are multitasking at their desks during the meeting. I guess when they perceive that with no time to complete their takeaways and nobody checking up on them, they don’t have to take things seriously. Everyone wonders why projects typically take two to three times longer to launch. Odd way to run a company.

  2. You nailed it again John! This bad behavior is contagious and easily becomes a part of the cultural norm. Eliminating it takes a war like approach both in discipline and aggression.

  3. Really solid list of questions for all to use for their own teams and at the higher department level… Simple and easy to answer (if you want to be honest with yourself)!

  4. John,

    Excellent. I see this in most clients as well, and actually lay out their responsibilities as part of my proposal, and then apply the discipline as we go forward. These rules will help my process – thanks.

  5. John,

    You said that you were building a new program that focuses on instilling an “Ownership Mentality” across the organization…. have you read “The Great Game of Business” from Jack Stack?

  6. John:

    Great list. I find the most common issue is accountability. When dealing with the the owners and senior leadership team, many times I find they fail to hold themselves accountable. For some strange reason even though they continually fail to follow through on addressing the major issues discussed in the meetings they will continue to call each other “A Players.” They have no problem holding employees below them accountability but there is little or no accountability at the time where it is most crucial. How do you deal with this when you know that is the core issue and you client is not facing it?

    1. Wonderful comment Howard! To me there are two main ways to address this situation. 1. Do a survey of all of the employees or all of the key employees and ask a question that points right to this issue. Sometimes when 400 people say it is an issue it is hard for the senior leader to ignore it! 2. This is exactly what an executive coach is for. When the senior leaders are not able to look in the mirror – a trusted advisor/coach is there to hold it up for them. However, sometimes even these things don’t work and you simply have to let it play out. Hope that helped – John

  7. I once worked with a consultant who was hired to help a company with meetings. The company installed a “time card” machine and an electronic display board in the meeting room. When a meeting was held, every participant would be required to “clock in”. Every 15 minutes the display board would calculate the salaries of the participants times the current amount of time of the meeting. This clearly demonstrated in black and white, the cost of the meeting. Their productivity and efficiency in meetings rose dramatically once they could see the bottom line impact.

  8. Thanks for the list; especially #4. Another goal should be to keep meetings at/under 1 hour. Not always possible depending on the issues but somehow I get better focus/engagement when it’s clear up front that I want to let everyone go within a certain timeframe (20-30min, 1hr, 1.5 hr).

    Who can’t appreciate when you value other’s time and run meetings that way? It’s great for meeting buy-in.

  9. With great respect for the title of this blog and its author, I would rather say that meetings do not OFTEN = results because of lack of responsible team players, a good tracking system and follow ups.

    If these three (3) issues can be identified and put in place, meetings should, I repeat, should result into something positive. By the way, unnecessary meetings are not recommended. Some issues can be resolved with simple phone calls or emails.

    Thank you

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