Meetings That Work - Alan Mulally’s Approach

August 14, 2018

 

Many team members dread meetings, finding them ineffective, lengthy, and in some cases just plain useless. I have always been surprised at the lack of attention paid by top leaders to meeting management. Yet given that the leadership team spends most of its ‘together time’ in meetings, getting them right is essential to building High TQ. Alan Mulally was acutely aware of the importance of effective meetings and had spent years perfecting his own meeting platform at Boeing, which he instituted at Ford.

 

In the initial days at Ford Mulally instituted the new ‘BPR (Business Plan Review) process,’ which was indeed, a culture shock for his leadership team. The BPR meeting was held every week on the same day, at the same time, in the same place, and attendance was mandatory for all senior executives.  They were expected to deliver succinct status reports and updates on their progress without debates, but based on business realities, not politics or personality. Any issues that required more in-depth consideration were moved up in a “Special Attention Review” (SAR) immediately following the BPR. Mulally´s restricting the use of devices surprised many executives, who in the past were used to spending the better part of any meeting reading emails, watching sports or playing games!

 

One of Mulally’s core principles was bringing transparency around data and projects, using charts flowing from red (not done), yellow (in progress), and green (completed). In the beginning all the charts were full of greens and yellows, yet the company forecast was that they would lose 17 billion dollars! He needed to create an atmosphere in which it was safe to be wrong, to make a mistake; finally the team had the courage to report the reds, knowing they were all there to support each other. Mulally got his breakthrough, as the team finally embraced his ‘one team’ philosophy.

In 2015 at Ford’s Asia headquarters in Shanghai, I had the opportunity to observe Mulally’s legacy of working together while sitting in on a Ford leader’s meeting. Most unit managers had implemented Mulally’s famed BPR in which the manager and 15 key players reviewed results with full transparency and with the expectation that everyone was there to support each other. I was able to experience the fruits of Ford’s cultural transformation all the way across the globe, even after Mulally had retired, as the BPR continued at all levels and departments.

 

The changes Mulally had made to Ford’s culture were no longer limited to the upper echelons of the organization. At each level of the company, managers tried to emulate an inclusive and data-driven approach. Every department now held its own weekly BPR meeting, and similar sessions were held regularly at the national and regional level.

 

Mulally also believed in natural peer pressure in meetings. The better the team, the stronger the desire to show up. Therein lies one of the powers of a High Performance Team: People will do almost anything to perform, not to lose face, and be seen as a strong team contributor.

 

Meeting effectiveness of is a core principle in TQ. Employing transparency of data, with all team members fully engaged and supportive in the meeting environment, will go a long way to creating the Team Quotient that you want.

 

Douglas Gerber is Founder and CEO of Focus One, a consulting firm that helps leaders create High Performance Teams. After 23 years as a corporate executive, he developed a reputation for building successful teams. Later, as a consultant, he has personally worked with leaders from over 70 companies to develop their own winning Teams. Drawing from his own extensive background and 10 years of research, Douglas innovated the concept of “Team Quotient” (TQ). He is a thought leader in the area of team transformation. Learn more about Douglas and his upcoming book Team Quotient: How to Build High Performance Leadership Teams that Win Every Time on www.douglasgerber.com

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