CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 58, 10th May 2004


  1. Editorial: The Dell way
  2. Book review: Planning meetings

1.     Editorial: The Dell way

Richard Winfield - editor and principal consultantI have just booked the Brefi Group stand at the CBI's Annual Conference in November. At the same time I picked up a copy of the organisation's excellent magazine, Business Voice.

There was an interview with Michael Dell, and I marked many places with my highlighters. Here are some extracts: -

"Part of Dell's success lies in its partnership model. By forming strategic partnerships with specialists in areas outside its core expertise, it minimises its outlay on overheads and assets."

"We have a phrase at Dell: 'Pleased but never satisfied'."

"We have a programme called Business Process Improvement, which offers employees in every part of the company an opportunity to study a problem and implement a solution. This past year, we had about 18,000 teams complete BPI projects to improve our processes and save the company money. Our teams consist of employees from manufacturing, finance, marketing and throughout the company. We generate over $1bn in savings from the BPI program."

"Our culture is not to complain about issues, but to fix them, improve them, make them better."

"If you don't keep things simple and understand who you are as an organisation, you won't maintain the pace of execution it takes to succeed."

"We are growing our global management team to create the leaders of tomorrow."

"At Dell, innovation doesn't mean things... it means ideas. It means listening to customers and serving their specific needs. It means tailoring products and services to better suit the way customers work and live. It means improving our processes to be more efficient and to provide more value to our customers. It means making things make better sense."

Good sense from the founder of one of the world's top companies.

I was pleased to be able to ask a question of Oliver Letwin, the UK's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, this week. I asked about regulation and was favourably impressed with his detailed reply. Rather than taking the normal politician's position by saying he intended to reduce regulation, he explained how he had studied the culture and system that tended to create excessive regulation. He then explained his proposals for changing the system, to create a disincentive to unnecessary regulations in the future. Not bad for a politician and merchant banker!

If you take the trouble to understand the dynamics of a system, you are less likely to incur the Law of Unintended Consequences.


HOT NEWS: Another product release from Andrew Halfacre

Hollow Square Hollow Square

This game can be used to help teams understand the impact of communication between those who develop plans and those who have to implement them. It also highlights helpful and not so helpful behaviours when planning, assigning or completing tasks. Teams that regularly work on problem solving will find the game useful for alerting them to factors that encourage or restrict effectiveness.

It can be played at several levels of complexity [MORE].

2.    Coaching notes: Planning meetings

I recently attended a talk by Theo Theobald, who used to work for the BBC. He mentioned that at the end of every meeting they were required to ask themselves three questions: -

  • Did I teach anything?
  • Did I learn anything?
  • What did we decide?

If there were no positive answers to these, then there is fourth questions - Why did I attend?

He also mentioned that as well as setting a start time, they set a finishing time. As a result of this discipline, he claimed, meetings at the BBC were more effective than in many organisations.

I believe that another factor in setting up effective meetings is in the way the agenda is prepared. I suggest that rather than just listing the matters to be discussed, the agenda should define what is expected of each agenda item.

For example: -

  • Minutes to be approved subject to amendment
  • Report to be received
  • Report to be received and discussed
  • Report to be distributed in advance and discussed with feedback given to the author
  • Report to be discussed with a view to recommending further action
  • Report to be discussed with a view to appointing an action committee
  • Report to be discussed with a view to reaching a decision
  • Report to be approved subject to amendments
  • Decision required on allocation of responsibility
  • Date of next meeting to be decided

Meetings are an excellent opportunity to apply the rules of setting well formed outcomes. In particular: -

  • "Could we please agree on what we want to achieve, not what we are trying to avoid?"
  • "Excuse me, can we actually have any effect on this matter? If not, then let's get back to the agenda."
  • "If we have not achieved this in the past, what stopped us then?"
  • "How will this impact on other interests/activities?"
  • "What is the first thing we must do to achieve this?"
  • "Please, could we set some boundaries so that we can monitor when we have achieved this?"
  • "What resources will be needed/who will be responsible?"
  • "Let's clearly record the benefits of this decision."

You might discuss these questions with your colleagues and agree on a signal - or a flag to wave - when the meeting is failing to meet basic criteria. They often do!

I also recommend that the minutes are dictated by the chairman as decisions are taken, using the minutes of meeting form available on the Brefi web site.


We aim to make the Brefi Group web site the premier developmental site for teams and individuals in organisations, so do please send us your suggestions and requests for further development. And let us know what you think of this newsletter, and comment on the content.

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Copyright 2004 all rights reserved.

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We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield:

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