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How To Lean Your Meetings


Have you ever prepared for a group meeting to discuss what you will present to a client or senior executive? Most of us have and consider this part of good teamwork or quality assurance. What would happen if the client or the senior executive sat in on that meeting?

That happened to me last week and illustrated the challenge of lean thinking. The more future steps and quality checks you have in a process, the less likely you will concentrate on doing it right the first time. Most of us show up somewhat prepared for the preliminary meeting before THE MEETING. Because I know this blog will be edited, I concentrate on getting the thoughts down but rarely focus on the grammar or flow. Lean would suggest that doing it right the first time is the more cost-effective manner.

Quality assurance and editing are necessary. You would not be reading this blog save the quality editing by my wife. Seriously! The point is that over reliance on process allows quality to seep out of the original effort. If you only got one shot at everything you did, would you do anything differently?

I can already hear the “fail fast/fail often” wing of the lean readers raising their “Yeah, but…” I agree with the concept and only support doing your best within the fail fast. Lack of this focus can turn failing fast into either failing fast for the wrong reason or failing slow.

My meeting went better than expected. My colleague and I both took deep breaths and just presented what we had learned as if it was THE MEETING. Fortunately, we both had developed extensive presentation notes for the original meeting and these notes worked. The executive thought we nailed the work to date and decided to retain us for the second phase.

The euphoria carried me to a post conference run. Somewhere in the second mile, I realized the meeting could have just as easily gone the other way. The rest of the run became a disaster avoidance analysis.

To improve your lean thinking, learn to slow down and do it right the first time. You’ll save time, lead by example, and reduce worry over who shows up. But don’t fire your editor!

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