Operational Cadence and Rhythm A.K.A Meetings

There is a thousand and one memes about meetings because the general sentiment is that ‘it could have been an email’.

A meeting that could have been an email

As a business operations professional, one of the things that always showed up at my desk was ‘meeting cadence’ often disguised as ‘operational cadence/rhythm’. Basically, this means ‘we have too many meetings or they are not good enough; figure out what an effective model for meetings is for us’. But the underlying concepts of operational cadence/rhythm are:

  • Are we executing on our strategy? What is the progress and do we need to adjust strategy based on new things that came up?
  • Are we resolving blockers so teams can succeed?
  • Ae we collaborating and communicating enough?

Operational rhythm is a core part of business operations, and I have done this at multiple companies, large and small. The is no one size fits all because it really depends on many things and most importantly the company culture. I could write a book on this, but today I just want to share a high-level process, a base model from a book I really like, and some interesting reads I found on this topic.

The Simple Process to taking on this task

  • Inventory: Make a list of all meetings in an excel file with key information:
    1) Objective: What is the purpose of the meeting and how is it structured?
    2) People: Who attends the meeting?
    3) Time: When and at what frequency does the meeting happen?
  • Needs: Evaluate for redundancies, frequency, and objectives. Then use those insights to build a model for operational cadence based on that.
  • Iterate: Things change and the model should evolve as the landscape changes, so evaluate and iterate on an ongoing basis.

Here is a meeting model at the simplest level:

  • Annual meetings: Set targets and strategy (2–3 days)
  • Quarterly meetings: Review results and adjust the strategy (1–2 days)
  • Monthly meetings: Check and correct deviations (2–3 hours)
  • Weekly meetings: Track and monitor execution (1 hour)

As part of job where I was taking on this task, my boss bought me a book that is completely based on meetings: Death by Meeting — A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. I really enjoyed reading this book. The meeting model shared in this book is a great base model for building an operational cadence. And I especially love how it analogizes to television shows and movies.

Here are some great articles and resources on meetings:

Keeping your strategy alive and relevant: Optimize operating rhythm to create space by Alison Randel

How often should you meet? Selecting the right meeting cadence for your team by Elise Keith

What’s You Operating Rhythm? By Itamar Goldminz

How to create an operating rhythm to increase productivity By Angus Patterson

An operating rhythm is about ensuring that certain vital activities are performed in a consistent manner to a high degree of excellence both across a business and within the business. The key aim being to drive efficiency, effectiveness and therefore productivity

Your Operating Rhythm is a set of key interactions between your leaders and your front line operations by RLG International