Book Report: Will There Be Donuts?

will-there-be-donutsIf you really mean to change the way you meet, you are going to be messing with the culture of the business and the deep-seated habits of its employees. You’re going to discover that very often the meetings are not the problem, they are a symptom of the problem. You are going to be upsetting the status quo. It could get messy… The questions and challenges will come. People don’t like mediocrity, but it is amazing how hard they will argue for it when you offer a change.” (Will There Be Donuts?)

Title: Will There Be Donuts? Better Business One Meeting at a Time

Author: David Pearl

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 2012

Origin: I saw Will There Be Donuts? in an airport bookstore, and thought to myself, “I hate (lousy) meetings – seems like this book could help…”

Summary: For those who think Will There Be Donuts? is a book about meetings, Pearl has this to say: “This isn’t a book about boring meetings and whether you want to have them. It’s a book about boring lives and whether you want to live one.”

“This isn’t a book about boring meetings and whether you want to have them. It’s a book about boring lives and whether you want to live one.”

Pearl starts by explaining the real tragedy of nearly meeting: all those missed opportunities to change the world, that, instead, ended up wasting time and even being counter-productive…making us believe that sucking is just an unavoidable characteristic of meetings, in general. He arms us in our quest to revitalize meetings with some tips on how to spot a ‘nearly’ meeting.

Next, he outlines the anatomy of meetings, explaining the importance of four concepts: Intent, Connect, Context, and Content.

By this point, the reader’s convinced that meetings can be more than just an annoying tax on our time; that they can – gasp! – actually be productive and run efficiently, if we actually know what we’re doing (and why!).

With this extensive introductory material out of the way, Pearl focuses on the seven fundamental types of meetings, providing specific guidance on how each should be organized and executed:

Finally, Pearl closes by summarizing what we’ve learned (a great deal), and providing us with a Real Meeting Checklist.

My Take: As you can infer from the sheer number of posts related to this book, I found Will There Be Donuts? to be terribly useful and quite entertaining. Pearl has taken a dry – but important – subject and, through wit and an outsider’s view, pointed out many of the absurdities that we business folk put up with on a daily basis.

Importantly, he’s gone beyond just pointing and laughing at us and, instead, has provided us with useful and specific instruction on how to move from nearly meeting to effectively meeting.

As Pearl says (p286), “The difference between nearly meeting and really meeting is – you.”

Read This Book If: (quoting David Pearl) “…the donuts are the most interesting thing about your meetings.”

Notes and Quotes:

  • p3 begins to introduce different types of meetings we all encounter – I wrote about these, and some of my own, in Know Your Enemy: How to Spot a Nearly Meeting
  • p10, on virtual meetings – the onus is on the organizer to make sure things work: “The bottom line is that everything you need to do for a live meeting, you need to do even more for a virtual one.”
  • p15 mentions using a prop (in the example, a rubber chicken) to call attention to latecomers: “Today any team member who dares to arrive after the agreed start time has to keep the chicken prominently on their office desk until the next monthly meeting as a silent and potent mark of public shame.” For my own team meetings, we introduced a plastic poop (the “swirly”) to positive results.
  • p16: “If you really mean to change the way you meet, you are going to be messing with the culture of the business and the deep-seated habits of its employees. You’re going to discover that very often the meetings are not the problem, they are a symptom of the problem. You are going to be upsetting the status quo. It could get messy.”

“If you really mean to change the way you meet, you are going to be messing with the culture of the business and the deep-seated habits of its employees. You’re going to discover that very often the meetings are not the problem, they are a symptom of the problem. You are going to be upsetting the status quo. It could get messy.”

  • p19: “Remember, this isn’t a book about boring meetings and whether you want to have them. It’s a book about boring lives and whether you want to live one.”
  • Chapter 1 is all about “nearly meeting” – and I went into some depth on the subject in The Real Tragedy of Nearly Meeting
  • p24: “When you start to really change meetings, you are tinkering with the culture of the business, and issues don’t come much trickier.”
  • Here’s one for today’s (and yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s) political climate, p40, quoting Trevor Manuel, “Ideology means you know the answer before you hear the question.”
  • p41 reminds us of why nearly meeting is a tragedy: “Nearly meetings are not just unproductive, they are counterproductive because they undermine our trust in the power of really meeting. And really meeting can change the world…”
  • p44: “The questions and challenges will come. People don’t like mediocrity, but it is amazing how hard they will argue for it when you offer a change.”

“The questions and challenges will come. People don’t like mediocrity, but it is amazing how hard they will argue for it when you offer a change.”

  • p49, on the inclusiveness of really meeting (quoting Thomas Breuer), and the importance of eradicating hierarchy while trying to innovate: “When you put people together from very different fields and hierarchy levels you have to spend time to make sure that everyone really speaks up and each individual contribution is recognized. Hierarchy in innovative meetings is counterproductive.”

Hierarchy in innovative meetings is counterproductive.”

  • p57, the answer to the problem of lousy meetings: “The answer…is to make your meetings so mouthwatering and wholesome that those unhealthy nearly meetings don’t stand a chance.”
  • p63: “…think of a meeting as a living being. And that we are not fixing them but keeping them healthy and vitally alive.”
  • p69: “The film-maker’s basic principle of engaging your audience from the start is a great one for you to practice in your meetings. Start well, and you have a chance of finishing well.”
  • p72, on the importance of explaining the why: “Which would you rather attend, a boring audit meeting or one that was going to help you keep your company safe in a dangerous world? When you do this exercise you will find there are many ways down the ladder. And you can discover many different intents for the same meeting. In fact, I’d encourage you to refresh and renew the intent to keep the meeting alive. The important thing is to life the manhole cover of the objective and start climbing down to find an intent you can tap into. Intention powers people as well as meetings.”
  • p73, on setting powerful intentions: “The key to a powerful intention is to choose a powerful verb. ‘A new business meeting’ is a noun, an object that just sits there on the page. When you describe it as ‘a meeting to stimulate new business’ it comes alive. Verbs are all about action. The more dynamic the verb you choose, the more dynamic your meeting stands to be.”

“The key to a powerful intention is to choose a powerful verb. ‘A new business meeting’ is a noun, an object that just sits there on the page. When you describe it as ‘a meeting to stimulate new business’ it comes alive. Verbs are all about action. The more dynamic the verb you choose, the more dynamic your meeting stands to be.”

  • p73-74 includes a table with a long list of verbs, adjectives, and nouns that can be used to jazz up meeting invites and to set powerful intentions
  • For years I’ve inquired along similar lines, so I can avoid wasting an hour of my time for something that would take five minutes outside of a meeting environment. Here’s some advice from p75: “What I like to recommend is that when you receive a meeting invitation you send a courteous email asking the following two questions: What is the intent of the meeting? And how can I specifically add value?”
  • p76: “The question I always ask clients – and have them ask themselves – is how can this meeting create extraordinary value for everyone involved? Not just value but extraordinary value. Not just for me, but for everyone, most particularly the other participants.”

“The question I always ask clients – and have them ask themselves – is how can this meeting create extraordinary value for everyone involved? Not just value but extraordinary value. Not just for me, but for everyone, most particularly the other participants.”

  • p84+, on hosting a meeting versus running a meeting: “There are two distinct aspects of leading a meeting – running it and hosting it – which we tend to collapse together. And this is causing problems. If you are being the Host, you are thinking: Intent – set a powerful intent powerfully; Content – What isn’t being said that should be?; Connect – Check how the participants are connecting (including on the phone). What’s the mood of the group today?; Context – Keep the business context in participants’ minds. If you are running things, you are thinking: Intent – Has the intent been set?; Content – What needs to be covered today? And what can be taken offline for the next meeting?; Connect – Are all the participants present? And if not, how do I get hold of them to check when they are joining?; Context – Is the air-conditioning too cold, why is the line crackling and when are the donuts coming?”
  • p100: “Meetings are experiences framed by context. Frame them well and your meetings will be meaningful and energized.”
  • p101, on the importance of providing the big picture: “Without it the meeting can easily collapse inwards – as so many do – and wind up focusing on the internal minutiae and not the external world where real life happens and real customers live.”

Meetings are experiences framed by context. Frame them well and your meetings will be meaningful and energized. Without (the big picture) the meeting can easily collapse inwards – as so many do – and wind up focusing on the internal minutiae and not the external world where real life happens and real customers live.

  • p102: “Even a humdrum meeting gains substance and meaning if people can connect the effort they are making to the larger story.”
  • p120: “Just as our schoolrooms were mechanisms of restraint, so too are our offices and meeting rooms. The occasional bean bag aside, the standard issue work equipment is still a chair and a desk (as it was at school) and a PC. We automatically talk about ‘sitting down and working things out,’ By sitting scrunched at your desk massaging your brows you are proclaiming to the world, ‘Look how hard I am working!’ You can imagine a hunter-gatherer ancestor beamed in from some primeval forest thinking, ‘Why is this person doing nothing?'”
  • Anyone who’s been in a meeting with me would probably remember that I tend to get up and move around quite a bit. It turns out I’m onto something, p121: “Better still, get up and move around!”
  • Oh man yeah. How many times have you been in a meeting and everyone’s just kinda waiting for it to get going and do its own thing? p129: “If leadership is important in a face-to-face meeting, it’s vital in a virtual one. If you have more than two participants, especially in different time zones, someone has to lead. If not it will be a waste of time and you might as well hang up.”
  • p144: “If you do have to fear something, fear being middle-of-the-road in your design choices. Let that fear fuel you to do something different.”
  • p152: “No amount of word crafting, script doctoring or PowerPoint voodoo is going to persuade an audience to take in a message you don’t believe yourself. We are all very media literate. We are used to the exposé and the close-up. We spot incongruities immediately. Real and spontaneous beat slick and on-message every time.”

“No amount of word crafting, script doctoring or PowerPoint voodoo is going to persuade an audience to take in a message you don’t believe yourself. Real and spontaneous beat slick and on-message every time.”

“He who summarizes, wins. You probably think that the job of summing up the meeting is to record what happened. Wrong. …The real job of summing up is to record what you want people to remember happened. And to direct what happens next.”

  • This passage (from a section about the importance of making a connection with people) reminded me of the wonderful/beautiful quote from Rebecca Northan in Elements of Wit; p260: “Curiosity is one of the most powerful ways I have found to make and sustain connection with others. It’s wonderfully democratic. Interest requires people to be interesting. You can be curious about anyone. You can be sitting across the table from someone who doesn’t interest you at all and still be curious about where they come from, what makes them tick, why they chose that shirt, what they had for breakfast.”
  • p261 continues: “Curiosity is a secret battery you can tap into in your meetings. It powers up your senses, gets your imagination working, breaks down barriers, effortlessly starts connecting you with other participants. It is particularly effective in virtual meetings. Curiosity makes connections across time-zones quicker than electrons down a broadband cable. Curiosity is powerful because it makes you notice rather than think.”

Curiosity is one of the most powerful ways I have found to make and sustain connection with others…Curiosity is powerful because it makes you notice rather than think.

  • p277: “Remember the anatomy of a real meeting. Bring to mind why you are making this call and picture the outcome you want. See the other callers in your mind’s eye – as well as the bigger picture that surrounds the meeting. Finally, as you dial in, remind yourself of any content points. With a bit of practice that should take you ten seconds, no more. I don’t care how busy and/or important you are. You have ten seconds.”
  • p281, with an inspiring call to action! “If real meetings were happening all over the world, what could we not create? What conflicts could be avoided? What great new ideas could we collectively have that we’d individually miss? If only we weren’t so busy nearly meeting… And what about you? What meetings would you like to see happen? And what could you do to make that a reality? Now you are killing off those nearly meetings – or just about to – you’re going to have much more time for the real meetings you really want to have. Think of something you really want to achieve with the time you have left in this life and imagine a meeting that would help that happen.”
  • Pearl closes the book in excellent fashion with, “Your Real Meeting Checklist”
Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Books, Everything, Leadership, Management
11 comments on “Book Report: Will There Be Donuts?
  1. […] man yells at meetings series, inspired by and drawing heavily from David Pearl’s excellent Will There Be Donuts?, I’ll close the same way Pearl did, with his Real Meeting […]

  2. […] Pearl explains meeting meetings in detail from pages 215 to 219 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  3. […] Pearl explains selling meetings in detail from pages 207 to 214 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  4. […] Pearl explains (re)solution meetings in detail from pages 199 to 206 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  5. […] Pearl explains innovation meetings in detail from pages 192 to 198 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  6. […] Pearl explains decision meetings in detail from pages 186 to 191 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  7. […] Pearl explains discussion meetings in detail from pages 179 to 185 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  8. […] Pearl explains information meetings in detail from pages 169 to 178 of Will There Be Donuts?; this post borrows/adapts heavily from those pages, but is certainly not meant to be a replacement […]

  9. […] Will There Be Donuts?, David Pearl explains the concept of nearly meeting […]

  10. […] In Will There Be Donuts?, David Pearl describes the types of nearly meetings that are going on in businesses an organizations around the world. If you find yourself experiencing any of these, then you know you’re experiencing a nearly meeting: […]

  11. […] nothing quite like a hard ceiling to force some effective use of time.  In a few weeks, my copy of Will There Be Donuts will arrive, and my crusade will begin in earnest.  Join me, and we can incite […]

What do *you* think?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address and get posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Archives
%d bloggers like this: