How to Fix Communication Problems with Meetings (Inspired by Mastering the Rockefeller Habits)

When companies have communication problems between teams, one of the first areas I look at is how they’re running meetings. Are most people leaving and thinking “Well that was a complete waste of time”? While we’ve all experienced this at one time or another, consistent issues usually happen because of lack of planning, leadership, or facilitation. But the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. 

When done right, meetings can forge progress. That’s one of the big takeaways I had from the book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. Among the 10 Rockefeller habits he explained to scale a business (see below), meetings were the foundation of achieving all the habits successfully. 

(You can also check out Harnish’s follow up book Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0) that goes into depth about the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.)

To improve communication among teams, here’s how you can use Rockefeller’s habits to run effective meetings: 

Daily Huddle: 5-15 minutes

Purpose: I’ve grown to be a fan of the daily huddle. It becomes the foundation for communication initiatives and follow throughs, while building alignment throughout an organization (both across and down). Without the daily huddle, it’s hard to reach alignment.The flow of activities becomes sporadic versus planned and purposeful. 

How to Execute: Daily huddles only need to be 5 to 15 minutes, usually done during the morning. Each department has a quick meeting to discuss each member’s successes and challenges related to your quarterly rocks— 3 to 5 priorities to achieve quarterly goals or measurables. Avoid having a huddle just to have it; it’s useless and wasteful. You MUST align to the activities necessary to achieve monthly or quarterly goals. 

Weekly Team Huddles: 60-90 minutes

Purpose: At the weekly team huddle, department heads connect around the same quarterly rocks, but at the management level. These meetings continue the flow of communication up from the daily huddle to management teams. The goal is to detect any bottlenecks early and recognize any successes to be replicated. 

How to Execute: During these meetings, you might find outcomes that require course correcting in the daily huddles— activities to change completely or just slightly enhanced. It’s important that each leader in these meetings takes the information back to their respective daily huddles and makes the necessary adjustments. 

Monthly Leadership Meetings: Half to Full day

Purpose: The results of the weekly team huddle helps drive the monthly meeting where executive leaders (and at times middle leaders depending on org structure) meet for a day of learning, resolving big issues, and cohesive information exchanges. 

How to Execute: Focus on alignment between each other as well as against the quarterly rocks. Time becomes short in between these meetings as the month one meeting is a quick pulse check on the quarter, but months two and three are usually met with harder obstacles for completing your rocks. Outcomes from this meeting should be disseminated down to the weekly team meetings and daily huddles to keep activities aligned and continuing progress.  

Quarterly and Annual Planning Meetings: One to Three Days Off-site

Purpose: Executive leaders meet (or middle leaders depending on org structure) for two main reasons: (1) debriefing on the last quarter/year and (2) planning for the rest of the year. During this meeting, quarterly numbers are established, rocks created/adjusted, and activities reviewed to understand alignment of goals and processes. It’s suggested to take this meeting off-site, giving everyone clarity and focus around the specific objectives. As we all know, the office (whether remote or on-site) can be distracting. 

How to Execute: The debriefing stage of the meeting is one of the most important steps in a mission (Thanks to another great read, Flawless Execution by James D. Murphy, founder of Afterburner). During this process, look into:

  • What worked or didn’t
  • How things measured up against rocks and activities
  • How challenges were addressed and solved
  • Mishaps along the way

Then, use your insights from this debriefing to plan for the future. After all, why continue bad processes and why not understand successes to replicate.

How to Implement

Most companies (of any size or shape) can improve their communication by running purposeful meetings as outlined in Mastering Rockefeller Habits. As with any new initiative though, start small by implementing one or two things first. Once those are consistently executed, add another. 

Remember that gaining adoption is critical in this process; everyone needs to understand the “why” of executing this meeting process and then be held accountable for participation and compliance. A lack of either will hinder your ability to realize your full potential. Proper management and facilitation needs to constantly steer the ship in the right direction.

The 10 Rockefeller Habits

  1. The executive team is healthy and aligned.
  2. Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward.
  3. Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization quickly.
  4. Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met.
  5. Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities
  6. Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data.
  7. Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organization.
  8. Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately.
  9. All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week.
  10. The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone.

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