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Become a business meeting superstar

A recent Time Magazine article, titled “Code Red” by Steven Brill, revealed how a quickly assembled group of tech gurus descended on D.C. to help revive HealthCare.gov late Fall 2013.  We are all familiar with the story of the disastrous launch of the site but what the article revealed is how this team of tech wizards (the same team that the Obama campaign had used for his re-election in 2012) came together to quickly and effectively revitalize the site and reduced the response times from eight seconds in late October to under ½ a second in January and the site has now processed 1.9 million enrollments.

What was intriguing was how this “rescue squad” got the job done.  The team headquartered themselves in a 4000 square foot room in a non-descript office park in Columbia, MD – lined with TV monitors showing various dashboards readings and graphs.  Key to their success was the way team leader, Mickey Dickerson, managed their meetings.  He calls them “stand-ups.”

It’s a Silicon Valley-inspired meeting where everyone usually stands rather than sits and works through a problem or a set of problems, fast.  Everyone then disperses, acts and reports back at the end of the day’s second stand-up.  The meetings would usually take between 30-45 minutes and Mickey established some important ground rules that set the tone:

RULE 1:           “The war room and the meetings are for solving problems.  There are plenty of other venues where people devote their creative energies to shifting blame.”

RULE 2:           “The ones who should be doing the talking are the people who know the most about an issue, not the ones with the highest rank.  If anyone finds themselves sitting passively while managers and executives talk over them with less accurate information, we have gone off the rails, and I would like to know about it.”

RULE 3:           “We need to stay focused on the most urgent issues, like things that will hurt us in the next 24-48 hours.”

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I am convinced that most people hate meetings because they are not well organized, too long and nothing substantial comes out of them.   How would you evaluate your meetings?  Consider the “stand-up” methodology of Mickey Dickerson to become a meeting superstar!