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Meetings Suck. But they Don't Have to.

Debbie Madden
Sep 05, 2018

Grow your business by nailing the most important meeting of the week: the leadership team scrum.

Did you know that on average, every single one of us wastes 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings? I’m going to show you how to prevent that.

Very early on at Stride Consulting, I searched for a process to help me scale. This was my 4th company and I had my heart set on scaling in a way that I had never scaled before.

I’ve never raised any funding. All four companies I’ve run have been bootstrapped. So leveraging a pile of cash to scale has never been an option for me. I was searching for a process to enable scale.

That’s when I discovered the Rockefeller Habits.

Rockefeller Habits is a series of 10 habits that, when used well, enable phenomenal scale.

I’ve been using the Rockefeller Habits for about three years. The number one key to our scaling success is Meeting Rhythms, which is Rockefeller Habit number three. Bad meetings suck and are a huge waste of time, to the tune of 31 hours per month.

On the other hand, good meetings are the true pulse of scale.

The Weekly Scrum

The most important meeting is the weekly leadership team scrum. The goal of this meeting is to vigorously debate the top priority issues facing the business, and quickly decide action items.

The goal is not to solve every issue. The goal is to align on defining the issue and then align on next steps. Sometimes, issues get resolved, but often they are handed off to one person to move forward.

This weekly meeting is our secret sauce. It is how we get stuff done. It is how we scale. And here’s a peek under the hood at how we get it done.

Scripted Agenda

We meet weekly for 90 minutes.

It’s one thing to have a weekly meeting. It’s an entirely other thing for that meeting to be truly efficient to enable real scale.

For us, it took a solid year to get this meeting to be great. Now that it’s great, we spend almost zero time emailing back and forth, and we have almost no unproductive meetings.

The meeting is scripted. It’s got an agenda, and the agenda is the same every week:

  1. At minute zero, each person gets one minute to share personal good news
  2. At minute five, we review KPI insights. We keep a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboard and review trends and draw insights
  3. At minute 10, we discuss roadblocks. A roadblock is something causing you to be stuck. Tell the team what it is and the team’s job is to help you get unstuck. If we can’t quickly unstuck it, the issue gets added to our issues list.
  4. At minute 20, we do a quick review of what we got done last week
  5. At minute 25 we go over our open action items
  6. At minute 30, we build and prioritize our issues list. These are the top priority topics facing the business, both strategically and tactically. We prioritize issues that are tied to our annual initiatives. We also prioritize issues that absolutely must get resolved within the next five business days.
  7. From minute 35–85, so for a full 50 minutes, we debate each issue one at a time, in priority order. The person who raised the issue gets 30 seconds to share what’s on his/her mind. The goal is to debate the issue and align as quickly as possible to the point where we can assign an action item or resolve the issue. Debate must be vigorous yet productive. Now’s not the time to be shy. Say what’s on your mind, ask questions, be productive and constructive.
  8. Each action item coming out of debate has one owner and a due date.

Time Each Debate

We actually set a timer — a alarm goes off after five minutes and we majority vote to keep discussing or move on. We want to allow enough time to get into the weeds, but not so much time that we are ‘selling past the close.’

Rate Each Meeting

At the end of each meeting, we rate ourselves, from one to five. We do it rocks, paper, scissors style and call it ‘Fist of Fives’. We each raise one hand, and put up between one to five fingers to show how valuable we felt the meeting was. For anyone who votes less than a five, they get 30 seconds to say what it would take to get them to a five.

The better this meeting becomes, the faster we pulse, the faster we make decisions, the more we get done, the faster we scale.

For me, the key lesson learned here is: have the courage to be stick with it, and forgive inefficiencies. This meeting is easy to get off the ground, yet hard to get right. For us, it took a solid year to get this meeting to great. How long will it take you?

Originally Posted on Inc. 

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