Solving the Most Painful Problem

This is a book review of Death by Meeting: a leadership fable about solving the most painful problem in business, by Patrick Lencioni, published in 2004 by Jossey-Bass.

Death by Meeting

“If I didn’t have to go to meetings, I‘d like my job a lot more.”

I used to feel that way, and when I read that quote from the first line of the Introduction, I knew this was the book for me. I’m an action kind of guy, not a sit-around-and-waste-my-time kind of guy. Meetings used to kill me slowly, like a particularly cruel slow-drip torture. And the worst part was that I’d feel guilty about hating meetings because, of course, I accepted or called the meeting in the first place. Ugh! Why did I feel so compelled to do something I hated so much? And worse, why did I impose such horrors on others?

Patrick Lencioni has changed my mind through this book. I met him in Saskatoon a number of years ago when he shared the stage with Ken Blanchard. I became a fan of his, and when Death by Meeting was published, I picked up a copy. It is a fable about Casey McDaniel’s move from terrible meetings to great meetings. I’m  a fan of Aesop’s Fables, and I’m a fan of this style of business book too.

The first two thirds of the book are the fable, telling the story of how Casey moved his company from boring, waste-of-time meetings to compelling, important, interesting meetings. I enjoyed this as Casey McDaniels deals with real problems and shares his struggles. Lencioni writes a good story and I bought in. The final third of the book shares the model in detail, while anticipating some common problems.

Spoiler Alert!

Lencioni proposes four types of meetings. The Daily … wait, if I tell you this and you’re at all a busy person like me, you might be tempted to try the four types of meetings without reading the book. I don’t mean to belittle you, but you’ll probably screw it up. I would have. Forget the spoiler alert: read the book!

My favourite part is the section on “The Myth of Too Many Meetings”. A lack of meetings means more time spent running around solving problems that could have been anticipated. Too few meetings means more opportunity for confusion, wasted time spent correcting mistakes or misdirection. As Lencioni says, “Consider that an executive team with just seven people has twenty-one combinations of one-to-one relationships that have to be maintained in order to keep people on the same page.”


I’d forgotten that one-to-one work relationships should count as meetings. Why don’t they feel that way? I don’t know, but it’s much more efficient to have one meeting instead of twenty-one.

Is the book worth your time? It was worth my time, so I think it’s probably worth your time too. I’ve copied a summary page and stuck it inside the front cover of my notebook to remind me of a few key things as I plan and lead meetings. I no longer dread meetings. In fact, I look forward to them because I find myself (and our team) so much more productive as a result of the principles in the book.

And again, it’s a nice fable, which makes it an easy read. As this is my second book review on this blog, I think I’m going to have to come up with a rating system. I give it two thumbs up.


2 thoughts on “Solving the Most Painful Problem

  1. You are on to something there. In Hope our lead team for CWC meets once a month as does our planning team. We have been doing this for 33 years with great success. Other CWC’s have followed the advice of head quarters in Kansas City telling us that we really don’t need to meet that often, perhaps once every 3 months would do the job. Many of those clubs have now had to close down, not because people wouldn’t come to the outreach events but because they couldn’t get leaders . We feel we encourage and strength each other by meeting as often as we do. It’s like we are a cheering section for each other.


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