The morning meeting

Chronic communication problems within an executive team and a lack of shared accountability are overcome in a practical model of 'morning meetings' that is applied to four diverse business scenarios.

by Harvard Management Communication Letter
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The study looks at four examples of companies that are facing strategic and operational challenges but whose leadership teams are not communicating in a frank and effective way.

Successful leadership teams are able to have 'hard' conversations in which difficult issues are brought to the table. Senior-level individuals taking part in the conversation feel a responsibility to the organisation as a whole rather than merely protecting their own turf.

Martin Linsky explains the development of a model of senior-level communication that delivered significant pay-offs to the organisations that employed it. Turf protection and back-biting are reduced dramatically.

The study looks at a petrochemical company struggling to develop long-term strategies after a merger; a small advertising and design house trying to manage rapid growth; a government agency facing budget cuts; and a bank losing market share to new boutique players.

'Morning meetings' happen every day or once a week at the same time. The top team in the organisation assemble around a conference table either in person or virtually. This is a decision-making gathering and entry is a privilege. There is no agenda and, although the CEO sits at the table, he/she does not chair the meeting. Anyone can bring anything to the table for discussion and it doesn't have to be related to one's own area of responsibility.

In the second phase of the meeting, executives discuss highly sensitive issues, such as legal and personnel matters that demand a higher level of confidentiality.

Introducing such meetings to different organisations often encounters resistance, usually along the lines that people are too busy to attend daily meetings. This often masks anxieties about breaking with a familiar but dysfunctional mode of operation, or abandoning autonomy for shared responsibility.

On the surface, morning meetings are about communication, but within them are norms and values that are critical for organisations dealing with tough issues and adapting to new situations.

Source: The Morning Meeting: Best-Practice Communication for Executive Teams
Martin Linsky, co-founder and principal at Cambridge Leadership Associates
Harvard Management Communication Letter, Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2006
Review by Joe Gill

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