Has your team got a rhythm?

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 “Our monthly leadership team meeting has the nine most intelligent people in the business in attendance, yet we only ever report out and discuss what has already happened. It is like we are driving our business through the rear view mirror as opposed to the front windscreen! Surely there is a better way?”


Google “Effective Team Meetings” and there are 16 million results including articles, white papers, suggestions, tips and rules for conducting better meetings.

So, if so much guidance available on how to do this well, why do we continue to suffer the blight of unproductive, dull and poorly structured meetings?

The leadership team challenge

Teams we work with ask for help in solving issues affecting their performance. Many of these solutions take time to develop, socialize and implement. In the short term, “What can we do now which will have an immediate positive impact?” is asked.

Assessing and redesigning the operating rhythm of meetings is a simple and easy to implement initiative that can deliver this immediate positive impact.

The result is that when the team does meet, the time is used as constructively, positively and effectively as possible. It can help solve many of their immediate issues and frustrations and build a strong platform for the longer-term initiatives.

It is suggested that on average an executive team spends less than three days a month working together as a leadership team and less than three hours of this was devoted to strategic issues.

Other findings include :

  1. Agendas are unfocused and ad hoc often driven by the crisis of the moment.
  2. Too little attention is paid to strategy – 80% of time is devoted to issues accounting for less than 20% of a company’s long-term value.
  3. Meetings aren’t structured to produce real decisions. More than 65% of meetings are not for the purpose of decision making but for information sharing and discussion.
  4. Even when decisions are made, many organizations have difficulty making them stick. Once the meeting ends participants often take away very different interpretations of the group’s decision.

Despite all of these challenges, the question is not “should we have meetings?” but ‘how we make the meetings useful, productive and relevant?’.

Operating rhythms

High performing teams have an effective operating rhythm. For example, a combination of annual planning meetings, quarterly business reviews, monthly business unit performance reviews, weekly business updates and even daily huddles.

When you think of the range of things a leadership team needs to manage including budgets, go-to-market strategies, talent reviews, business development and pipeline reviews, workforce planning etc. there are clearly a broad range of needs that their operating rhythm must address.

Whilst most businesses do some of these things well, there are few that have effectively designed and optimized their whole operating rhythm in a way that enables a consistently high level of performance.

How do you assess & redesign your operating rhythm?

Five simple questions can provide insights to redesign operating rhythms and take performance to the next level:

  1. What are the key activities that we, and only we as a leadership team, are accountable for driving and delivering within the business?
  2. What are the right measures and performance indicators to track and monitor the performance of the business against these unique accountabilities?
  3. How often do we need to look at these measures and aspects of our business, based on their volatility over time, so we can be confident we understand whether we are on track or need to take corrective action?
  4. Based on this volatility, how often should we meet to discuss these key metrics and performance indicators? Do we need to review and manage to them daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually?
  5. Finally, what is the right mix of meetings, attendees, standard agenda items, pre-work, desired outcomes and discussion topics to ensure that each meeting is focused, effective and efficient?

The answers to these questions, enables any team to rationalise and redesign team meetings and the operating rhythm. In fact some clients have reduced the amount of time spent in leadership meetings by as much as 30% and increased their effectiveness as a result of conducting this type of exercise.

Finally, when designing your operating rhythm, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Deal with day-to-day operations separately from strategy. These two topics are very different in terms of the thinking required and the decisions to be made. They are best managed in different meetings.
  • In preparing pre-work, focus on the decisions required not on the discussions. Design it to enable the quality and pace of decision-making. Standard templates, briefing papers and a summary of the decisions to be made can all maximise the time.
  • Prioritise the agenda reflect each item’s real value. If an item will deliver significantly greater value than others ensure it is assigned more time and an earlier slot. Also challenge and confirm what the leadership team needs to spend time on versus what can be handled lower down in the business.
  • Ensure that one of the outcomes of all meetings is agreement of what was achieved and agreed, who owns the next actions and what resources are required to implement it. Getting the whole team on the same page before they leave the meeting has obvious benefits, not least enabling more focused follow-up and consistent communication and messaging.

Helping the leadership team optimise their time together will not only address the oft cited frustrations but also enhance performance.

Does your leadership team have an effective operating rhythm?


Written by Jed Wood