Are the Smartest Guys in the Room?

March 15, 2011 at 1:51 am 1 comment

Photo courtesy of SFO CP on Flickr Some rights reserved

A couple months ago I was scanning LinkedIn Answers and came a across a classic question:

What do you think of meetings? Mostly useful or mostly useless?

My response included: “make sure only necessary attendees are present.” Good thought, and mostly right. However, “necessary attendees” is too ambiguous. It’s true that meetings must be pruned down to the bare minimum number of attendees, but who are they?

The brief non-answer is necessary attendees = anyone responsible for the intended decision. Fair enough, but it’s really hard to get that list right. Most people just choose the obvious.

The common recipe goes something like this: throw a bunch of VPs in a room, sprinkle in a Senior Director or two and you’ve got the right mix, right? Probably not.

Those in the room must include those with decision-making authority, as well as those that have a firm grasp on the basis for that decision.

This became vividly clear during my recent marathon extravaganza of Fox’s 24. 24’s CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) nails the decision making process in meetings.

24’s rules of decision making:

  1. Make it 100% clear who owns the decision – the Director of CTU
  2. All decisions are to be completely data driven (time-permitting)
  3. Everyone is clear on their role in the meeting
  4. No throwing around of superfluous opinions (there’s no time for it – the world’s on the brink of destruction!).
  5. Those closest to the data are always in the room

I get that sometimes decisions must be made without the inclusion of all those close to the data. However, this must be the exception, not the rule.

We’ve all seen decisions made without the person (or people) with the most knowledge of that topic even aware that the decision was happening. This does not end well. It mostly leads to a loss of credibility for, and a general distrust of, management. <—to be avoided

This is not to be confused with "Why Wasn't I Consulted" (Paul Ford recently wrote a great post on WWIC). It’s more like HWIC (How Wasn’t I Consulted). Or, more simply stated, WTF.

In the end, the decision maker always has the last say. However, without the input of those that understand the content, how much is that decision really worth? Invite only the necessary, but make sure all the necessary are there. In short, before your next meeting ask yourself, “Are the Smartest Guys in the Room?”.

Entry filed under: Main Posts.

Empower, don’t encourage Shout out to NFTE

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. CT  |  March 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Before all of my meetings I ask myself: “Are the dumbest guys out of the room?”


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About Me

I'm a San Francisco-based strategic thinker who believes that life is only as great as the people you choose to interact with. I love people, and studying business has given me greater insight into how to most effectively develop myself, and my personal relationships. I look forward to discussing people and business with those that find this area as fascinating as I do.

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