Death by Meeting

Have you found yourself in a meeting thinking of all the things you could be doing instead of this meeting? Studies show that meetings can often be painful, tedious, unproductive, and costly:

  • A Gallup study found that unproductive meetings cost U.S. businesses $37 billion annually.1
  • A MIT Sloan study discovered people with a strong desire to accomplish work goals tend to report poorer job satisfaction as the number of meetings increases.2
  • Additionally, a survey reported that more than half questioned felt that meetings were the #1 timewaster in the office. 

The conundrum is that meetings should be central to all organizations. It should be an extremely valuable tool that helps communicate the vision, strategic plans, and ways to identify and respond to challenges and opportunities alike. 

If you find your meetings like the first group, ineffective and disengaging, then you might want to consider reading Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable about the Most Painful Problem in Business. The author, Patrick Lencioni,  illustrates how to convert meetings into an effective, engaging, enjoyable process of communication through an entertaining and  thought-provoking business fable about an organization failing because of the unproductive meeting the executives held each week. The fictional story goes through the process of how an organization reconfigured its meetings and became more productive and profitable. Not only is the story entertaining, but it has practical advice, examples, and a proven meeting structure that will help any organization. 

This structure was developed with the understanding that all meetings lack two things: Drama or conflict and structure. Lencioni believes that the meetings are not inherently boring, especially with all the dynamic interactions and vital decisions being made that impact the corporation and the team members' livelihood. He believes there needs to be conflict, just like any decent movie. He goes on to share ways to successfully implement the conflict in meetings. 

Lencioni also explains in-depth the structure of his meeting process. He explains there are four types of meetings, each serving a specific purpose and function: 

  • Daily Check-In: a quick five-minute meeting in which each person reports their activity for the day.
  • Weekly Tactical Meeting: a regular meeting that exclusively covers the tactical issues that immediately impact the team.
  • Monthly Strategic Meeting: The executives analyze, debate, and decide on critical issues that will fundamentally affect the team/business.
  • Quarterly Off-Site Review: A chance to step away from the daily and weekly issues that distract from looking at the business more holistically (long-term). 

You may be thinking, “MORE MEETINGS???” But Lencioni says good meetings provide an opportunity to improve execution and communication and reduce task repetition. 

The biggest takeaway I found was the organization of the weekly tactical meeting. Lencioni recommends that you do away with the idea of coming to the meeting prepared with a predetermined agenda. He suggests starting with the lightning round, where each individual has one minute, no more, to share their two or three priorities for the week, along with a progress report of four or five analytical metrics that review the progress of the team goals. After the lightning round, you set the “Real-Time Agenda.” The team chooses the agenda by identifying the tactical issues that need to be addressed to ensure the completion of short-term tasks and goals and clarify procedures, duties, or questions. 

For all four meetings, Lencioni clarifies the process with examples and identifies challenges along the way. 

The purpose of these meetings is to reduce what Lencioni refers to as “Sneaker Time.” A large amount of time spent after meetings sending emails, making calls, or roaming the halls to clarify issues that should have been made clear or talked about during the meeting. 

If you are a team leader, help run meetings, or notice that you are daydreaming during your meeting, this book may be just what you need to make those meetings more effective, engaging, and maybe even tolerable. 


1 Gandhi, R. (2022, June 10). How to lead a meeting people want to attend. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from  

2 Rogelberg, S., Scott, C., & Kello, J. (n.d.). The Science and Fiction of Meetings. MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2007(Vol. 48), 18–21.

3 Are your employees wasting time at work? how to increase productivity. (2019, March 18). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from…

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.