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Ford CEO calls for smarter meetings

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KAI RYSSDAL: I don't know how it is where you work, but here at Marketplace we can be a little meetings crazed. Daily meetings. Weekly meetings. A boss who enjoys a good meeting. You know how it is. Well Bill Ford is apparently fed up with all the meetings going on at his car company. Today's Detroit News reports on a memo he sent out to senior managers at Ford urging them to have fewer, and better, meetings. We asked Marketplace's Tess Vigeland to help set an agenda for reaching the company's gathering goals.


TESS VIGELAND: OK. First on our agenda today . . . let's get everyone's attention.
PAT LENCIONI:"The first thing a leader needs to do at a meeting is you gotta hook your audience."

Pat Lencioni is the author of "Death By Meeting." And he says the murder weapon is loaded every time you sit down at the table. But there are defenses.

LENCIONI:"You gotta say upfront here is the most pressing issue we have and here's what could go wrong if we have a bad meeting here today. And if they do that, people will sit forward and weigh in. If they don't, they're gonna sit there and wonder what their colleagues look like in their underwear."

Moving on. Agenda item two . . . no metaphorical food in the meeting room . . . just focus.

LENCIONI:"We go to a meeting, I call it meeting stew. And we throw every ingredient into the pot and wonder why it doesn't taste good. We need to be going to meetings that are shorter . . . really drill down on a given topic and leave when that topic is resolved."

Or when the donuts are gone. Agenda item three from University of Michigan management prof John Tropman . . . leave dogs and ponies in the lobby.

JOHN TROPMAN:"Ford is pretty well known in this neck of the woods for having meetings where the main criterion for success is how good your Powerpoints are. Meetings become a place to see and be seen. GM is also pretty well known for that."

Addendum: Have better meetings AND make better cars. And our final agenda item — from Pat Lencioni: Embrace the meeting, don't blame it.

LENCIONI:"I think their problems are deeper than that but the only place they're going to get addressed first is in meetings. But the meetings that are most important are the ones that Bill Ford and his direct reports have."

We asked Ford for comment on this story. They didn't get back to us in time because . . . they were in meetings.

Adjourned in Los Angeles, I'm Tess Vigeland for Marketplace.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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