The 16 senior executives of the company met twice a week. On Tuesday afternoon they met for a few hours for an informational discussion on topics of interest. On Friday they met to make decisions.
The Friday meetings, which almost always took the entire day, gave rise to universal frustration. Arguments over issues would go on for hours, often without resolution. Issues thought to have been decided in prior meetings would arise and be debated at length, as if the prior decision had never been made. The CEO was discouraged because he couldn’t get the vice-presidents to make a decision. They would argue until he got weary and ended the discussion by imposing his decision. Everyone felt that the meetings were unproductive.
The CEO engaged Frontier Associates, Inc. (FAI) to accomplish two primary goals. First and foremost was to get the senior managers to efficiently make decisions and own them instead of always relying on the CEO. The second was to make the Friday meetings more efficient and effective by radically reducing their duration and improving the quality of their results.
To understand better what was going on in the meetings we conducted a confidential 1-on-1 interview with each of the senior executives. Their universal discontent with the meetings was confirmed. We also discovered that there was disagreement as to the purpose of the meeting. In addition, we found that the senior executives perceived that they were primarily accountable only for their individual departments, and that overall accountability for the company rested solely with the CEO.
As a result of this analysis, we established the following approach for accomplishing the engagement goals:
- Alter the senior executives’ perceptions so that they regarded themselves as being jointly accountable for the entire company.
- Provide the senior executives with the concepts and skills for conducting effective meetings.
The Friday meetings, which had typically lasted all day with an indefinite ending time, now could be relied on to last precisely two hours. All participants said that the meetings were now highly productive and worth their time. The CEO said that the vice-presidents were making decisions and holding themselves fully accountable for the activities of the company.
Over 14 years later, despite an almost complete turnover in personnel, the meetings are still run with the same principles and produce the same high level of results.