Stand-up meetings have become a core ritual of highly effective teams the world over. So, how do you run them, measure them and get the best benefits? We explain this and more.
The massive growth of agile software development practices, means that stand-up meetings are becoming more popular within businesses of all industries and sizes. Just as the title suggests, a stand-up meeting is literally a quick meeting within a team who stands up for the duration.
Having said that, there are a number of elements that separate an effective stand-up meeting from being just a waste of time.
What is a team stand up meeting?
A team stand-up meeting is a regular (often daily) meeting that is kept to between 5 and 15 minutes long, and takes place with participants standing up to remind them to keep the meeting short and to-the-point.
Team members take turns speaking, sometimes passing around an item (we use a toy unicorn) to indicate the current person allowed to speak. Each member talks about progress since the last stand-up meeting, the anticipated work until the next stand-up and any roadblocks or impediments, taking the opportunity to ask for help or collaborate
These team stand-up meetings are often referred to as “team stand-up”, “daily scrum” or “status meetings”.
5 Great Benefits of team stand-up meetings
There are many individual and team benefits for conducting a stand-up meeting within your team. Our favourite five benefits are…
Encourages positive team building
It is difficult for an employee to psychologically identify with a group if they don’t regularly engage with their colleagues. A fast and productive way to keep the team cohesive, is to encourage regular (and short!) team stand-up meetings.
Builds and improves collaboration
These stand-up meetings are meant to promote follow-up conversations between members of the team. For example, if an employee brings up an issue they are having, another colleague is encouraged to speak up and say they can help later that day.
Captures valuable knowledge
A stand-up meeting will result in an increased rate of knowledge transfer between employees – meaning that the team overall has a wider and better understanding of the projects and tasks at hand.
Reduces roadblocks and problems
An effective stand-up will allow employees to identify issues before they become too problematic.
Team members can help each other when someone encounters a problem or discovers a better way of completing a task. Scenarios where team members are not comfortable sharing problems and don’t help each other are a reflection of an ineffective team.
Improved understanding of shared goals
By everyone focusing and discussing their current goals as individuals and a team, stand-up meetings help improve the shared understanding of goals. If there are no shared goals, you have a group of individuals, not a team.
These are just some of the known benefits of stand-up meetings within teams across the world.
The do’s and don’ts of stand-up meetings
There are a number of activities or ‘meeting rules’ you can put in place, to ensure your team stand-up meeting is effective, and not a total waste of time for everyone.
Make sure everyone literally stands up
Even though stand-ups are intentionally brief, people will still sit down if there are chairs or tables nearby. Hold the meeting in an open space or a room without chairs. This seems obvious, but people will often sit down without even realising it.
Keep the meeting short (but meaningful)
Any meeting that takes longer than 15 minutes becomes a serious team meeting, and not a quick stand-up. If you find that it takes a minute or two longer, that’s OK if the time is still effective. Don’t cut people off mid-report, but rather encourage brevity.
No devices, ever
The worst thing when speaking, is to see your colleagues’ attention elsewhere. Monitors should be out of reach and phones left on your desk. The purpose of a stand-up is for everyone to listen and be involved, not checking emails or taking calls.
Stick to the topic
To ensure that each team member keeps on topic and stays succinct, is to encourage a maximum time of 1-2 minutes each. Any longer, and the quick status becomes a report or presentation, not a quick update.
Keep a regular time and place
Most stand-up meetings happen first thing in the morning, and this is often because that’s when the team are most energetic and ready for the day ahead. Stick to an exact time and location to make it a positive habit.
You needn’t try stand-ups every single work day; it may make sense for your team to do it every few days, or weekly, depending on the amount of projects and work your team have to report and face.
The last thing you want to hear in a stand-up meeting is ‘I forgot what I did yesterday/last week’. Encourage everyone on the team to spend a few minutes preparing for the stand-up meeting, to ensure that it stays energetic and useful.
Start on time
If people are unavoidably late, don’t postpone the meeting, continue without them, and ask afterwards (privately) that they make an effort in future to arrive on time.
Use an object to signal who speaks
As I mentioned earlier, we use a toy unicorn, however it could be anything; a ball, an office object or something fun like our toy. The purpose of this is to keep the concentration on the person speaking, and avoid interruptions.
Stick to the core three questions
Most stand-up meetings use the same three questions, which are;
- What did I accomplish yesterday/last week?
- What will I do today/this week?
- What roadblocks or obstacles are impeding my progress?
If you stick to these, you will find that although short, the responses are powerful updates.
Time the meeting length
You should time these stand-up meetings, and possibly even publish the results. Most of the time, attendees just don’t realise the impact of a few interruptions, not being prepared or going off topic.
Invite a small team
If you find that you can’t reasonably get an update form everyone, then perhaps your meeting has too many attendees. If your stand-up meeting has more than 15 attendees, this leaves less than one minute for each person to contribute. Consider splitting the teams into smaller groups if possible.
By sticking to the above, you ensure that you increase the benefits of stand-up meetings within your team.
Signs your stand-up meetings need improvement
If you feel that your team stand-up meetings are being treated as a chore, and not an opportunity for team building and problem solving, then you need to get these meetings back on track.
A few tell-tale signs that your meetings aren’t as effective as they could be, are;
A team stand-up meeting is not an opportunity to talk about that new great film, or what you did over the weekend.
Whilst social chat is a great team building technique, it is unfair for the entire group to have to sit through a small off-topic discussion.
Lack of attention
If you find people are staying sitting down, or looking at screens or devices, stop the meeting and ask everyone to get back to the topic at hand. It can be demoralising for the person speaking, and certainly not effective for the attendees if this lack of attention occurs.
Reporting to the boss
The point of these stand-up meetings, is to report to the team. If you find that everyone is directing their reports to the manager, then you need the manager to step out of the meeting, or address this to the attendee afterwards.
Low energy from the team
If you find people are visibly tired, inattentive or unmotivated, it may be time to try something different. A number of companies encourage a minute or two of stretching exercises beforehand, to get the blood flowing, and to encourage alertness.
Attendees regularly late
If you find that some of the people regularly turn up late, take them aside and privately reinforce the need for them to attend on time. It can be disruptive to the whole team if someone turns up late, apologises, and puts the flow of round robin discussion out of turn.
I can’t remember
If you have an attendee who regularly says they can’t remember, or they don’t know what tasks lie ahead of them, it publicly shows that they are not prepared. If this doesn’t iron itself out, you may need to remind the employee to spend a few minutes in preparation before the meeting.
The purpose of these stand-up meetings is to highlight issues, not resolve them. If an employee raises an issue, encourage someone to put their hand up and say they can help; however directly after, and not during, the meeting.
Team stand-up meetings are a fantastic way to ensure everyone within your team is on the same page, have a shared understanding of tasks and goals. Stand-up meetings are an effective, fast method for resilient team building.
By using the tips and tricks above, I encourage you to improve your stand-ups, or if yet to try them, give them a go; you’ll be surprised how well they can work to build a cohesive team and keep everyone motivated.
Need more team building suggestions? See 16 Unusual Team Building Ideas to Strengthen Teamwork.