An Effective Business Review Meeting?

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings”  ~Dave Barry

Everywhere I go I hear complaints about Business Review Meetings.  Whether they are held monthly, quarterly or some other cadence, the comments from participants tend to be the same.

  • “What a waste of time.”
  • “Now I’ve lost another day of work.”
  • “I flew to the East Coast for this? At least they had a decent movie on the flight.”
  • “I prepared for three days and they cut my time short.”
  • “Lots of talk but no decisions, just another request for  more data.”
  • “I’m not really interested in what problems the other Directors have; I’ve got my own problems.”
  • “The same three guys take up all the air time.  Like a broken record every meeting.”

Another common complaint about Business Review Meetings is that nearly always the time gets hijacked with discussions on day-to-day operating or tactical issues, especially when we have a room full of engineers turned managers; they quickly dive down into trying to fix the problem right then.

I recently sat with Lewis Booth, CFO of Ford Motor Company, who along with the senior executive team is leading the successful turnaround and global repositioning of Ford.  You probably know Ford was the only one of the Big Three US auto makers to refuse government bailout money, so they need to be efficient and effective in everything they do to save time and money.  And their weekly (yes, you heard me right) 2 1/2 hour senior executive meetings are not only efficient and effective, but productive and strangely motivating as well.

One of the reasons for the effectiveness of these meetings is the discipline instilled in the group as a result of good leadership from Alan Mulally, a standard set agenda, clear and inviolate groundrules, and standard templates for all information updates.

Here are some of the groundrules that Ford senior team follows:

  • Identify the problem, don’t try to solve it during the meeting
  • If you can help someone else solve a problem, talk to them after the meeting, not in the meeting
  • Absolutely no “pot shots” or “poking fun” at anyone, inside the room or out. (Alan Mulally is very serious about this groundrule as he understands deeply that respect for the individual and trust are the foundations of an effective team).
  • Start and end each meeting with a review of the vision and mission  (One Team – One Plan – One Goal)
  • The Ford senior team has a list of “expected behaviors” (how we agree to behave and lead) and these are reviewed at the start of every meeting
  • At least one “appreciation event” each meeting (someone won an award or public recognition, a 25-year service anniversary, etc.)
  • Everyone attends, either in person or via Webex (I have a client where one of the senior team members refuses to travel to another location for their quarterly meeting – think about the hidden agenda)
  • They go through nearly 300 slides in just over 2 hours as they review the entire business, but the trick is a common format and all new information is in blue, so they only need to focus on the blue material, not go over each slide in detail
  • Each global region gets 10 min. to present their charts and each “Skill Center” gets 5 minutes.  They truly are efficient!
  • They then use the exact same slides for their next level reviews, so everyone in management knows the same basic information in the same format.

Transparency of information, a commitment to solve problems as a team and help each other, and the fact that bonuses are based on how the company performs (not how their individual operations perform) help keep this senior team highly focused and effective.

How effective are your business review meetings? It might be time for a rethink!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E | john@johnrchildress.com      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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One Response to An Effective Business Review Meeting?

  1. Pingback: A Return to the Opera | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

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