The Effective Executive
Excerpt from THE EFFECTIVE EXECUTIVE by Peter Drucker, Introduction, pages XXI and XXII
“Good follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself. The great master of follow up was Alfred Sloan, the most effective business executive I have ever known. Sloan… headed General Motors from the 1920s until the 1950s…” (During this time GM overtook the early leader Ford to become and remain the largest auto maker in the world until 2006).
“At the beginning of a formal meeting, Sloan announced the meeting’s purpose. He then listened. He never took notes and he rarely spoke except to clarify a confusing point. At the end he summed up, thanked the participants, and left. Then he immediately wrote a short memo addressed to one attendee of the meeting. In the note, he summarized the discussion and its conclusions and spelled out any work assignment decided upon in the meeting (including a decision to hold another meeting on the subject or to study an issue). He specified the deadline and the executive who was to be accountable for the assignment. He sent a copy of the memo to everyone who’d been present at the meeting. It was through these memos, each a small masterpiece - that Sloan made himself into an outstandingly effective executive.”
What We Have Learned
Our business is project based and every project is unique and has a new set of challenges for each member of the team. While a comprehensive project management system is an important tool set, getting the details right from day-to-day is done person-to-person. We have a meeting management method that everyone in the company is taught that helps us make meetings effective, offers a structure for delegating critical Action Steps, and has a built-in accountability mechanism. Our meeting agendas and minutes have 4 major components: Meeting information, agenda, minutes, and action steps (acronym M.A.M.A.). The heart of the system is to agree on SMART (specific measurable action oriented, realistic, and timely) Action Steps at the end of a meeting, and then paste those action steps into the agenda for the following meeting as old business to make sure that each has been completed.
Sample Meeting Agenda/Minutes
Meeting Information: Who, What, When, Where, and Why
- Old / Recurring Business:
- A numbered list of all Action Steps from previous meetings
- You say: "Bob, you committed to finishing estimate, is that done and sent?"
- New Business:
- A numbered, prioritized and organized list of all additional points that need to be discussed.
- The discussion can jump from item to item and out of order.
- Use these items as a check-list before the end of the meeting.
- Make numbered notes of what was discussed and decided.
- These numbers don't necessarily need to correspond to the Agenda numbering.
- Each Action Step should be discrete.
- The SMARTer the better: Who, what, when, where, how, how much
- These will be pasted into the next Agenda as Old Business to ensure completion.
- Make sure everyone knows what good performance looks like.
This post was updated 2/10/2016