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A Smarter Way to Brainstorm

The Meeting I Never Miss

FedEx’s Daily Operations Review is the Barry Sanders of meetings — 60 minutes of fast, focused, low-to-the-ground performance that enables the $10 billion shipping giant to pull off a daily logistics miracle involving 3 million packages, 211 countries, some 37,000 vans and trucks, and more than 550 planes. FedEx Vice President Rodger Podwoski understands that “when the life cycle of your relationship with a customer is anywhere from 15 to 17 hours, you don’t have time to sit around and say, ‘Oh let’s have another meeting on that afterwards.'”

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Who: Roger Podwoski

Company: FedEx

Title: Vice President and General Manager, Logistics, Operations, and Customer Support

MINM: The Daily Operations Review

AKA: Morning Briefing

Frequency: Daily, at 0830 hours

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Purpose: What happened last night? And, what do we have to do today to make sure things run as smoothly as, if not better than, yesterday?

Why I Never Miss It: Customer service is all we have. We don’t make widgets, we offer reliability. This meeting is all about ensuring that

Pre-game

Every weekday at 5 AM, a taped recap of the night’s performance is made available via voice mail. Participants check in to review any problems they’ll need to discuss and solve

Ground Rules

It’s a military model. The corporation’s Global Operations Control and Coordination (GOCC) group chairs the meeting. Fifteen to thirty representatives from key departments — Air Operations, Hub Operations, Customer Service, Computer Systems, Meteorology — stationed around the globe attend or participate by conference call.

“It never runs longer than 60 to 75 minutes,” Podwoski says. “It’s fast and action-oriented — like a football team in a two-minute drill. You need to get the ball over the goal line. The team is focused on a real-time solution. GOCC is like the quarterback who determines the solution. Individuals are responsible for their part of the plan.”

Talking Stick

GOCC follows a military-style checklist. The GOCC leader will say, “Meteorology,” and that department will come back with their report. Then the leader says, “Flight,” and if they have no issues, they’ll say, “No comment.” “It’s a very disciplined pattern that flows quickly and smartly”

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Power Seat

“Two chairs at the head of the conference room’s horseshoe-shaped table, usually occupied by GOCC people. When our CEO Fred Smith attends, he definitely gets one of those chairs.”

Dress Code

“We’ve only just gone to casual dress. We’re not in ponytail territory, but we’ve entered the 20th century.”

Audio/Visual

Global conference calls with people all over Europe, Asia, and the Americas; projector and screen; weather maps.

Energy Source

Coffee and soda for caffeine. No food.

Post-game

“If a problem can’t get solved in the meeting, GOCC will list it as an action item with a deadline. And they follow up.”

Best Result

“The Memphis airport was shut down by fog for the night a few years ago, which diverted nearly 100 planes to surrounding airports. In the next morning briefing we mobilized to call 5,000 employees to come in to help get us back on track. Fred Smith walked into that meeting to commend the tremendous effort. Then he wanted to know why we hadn’t installed jet engines at the ends of the runways to blow the fog out of Memphis. And he was serious!”

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Matt Goldberg is a New York City-based editor for Tripod, http://www.tripod.com and a frequent contributor to “Premiere” and “Swing.”

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