Popular among agile teams, stand-up meetings can be a great way to share progress, deal with challenges and keep goals aligned. Here's how to make them work...
Despite their best intentions, team meetings can sometimes not have their desired effect. Rather than motivating and energising the team, they can lack direction and purpose. A deflated team means less chance of goals being met and progress being made.
This is why stand-up meetings are becoming increasingly common in start-ups. Seeking to eliminate the less-desirable elements of traditional meetings, stand-ups allow for regular ‘check-ins’, and can foster greater transparency and teamwork on a given project, which has made it popular across many different teams across many types of project.
That’s said, stand-up meetings aren’t merely regular meetings conducted with everyone on their feet; there’s more to it than that. Although implementing them should be straightforward, ensuring that everyone’s time is well spent takes practice and a degree of experimentation to find what works for you and your team.
If your previous meetings have been met with challenges you’ve struggled to move through, then making the switch to stand-ups might be the alternative method that can improve focus, productivity and progress among your team. Here, we’ll go into the topic in more detail, looking at how they’re conducted, their advantages over traditional meetings and how they can help to maintain alignment across complex projects which require regular communication.
What is a stand-up meeting?
Unsurprisingly, a stand-up meeting (or standing meeting) is a meeting where its participants are on foot for the duration. Popular in both Agile and Kanban project management methodologies, the primary goal of stand-up meetings is to go over important tasks that have been finished, are in progress, or are about to be started.
Conducted at the same time each day and for the same duration (usually 15 minutes), the team meets in order to bring everyone up to speed on the most salient information for co-ordination: each team member briefly describes any ‘completed’ contributions, along with roadblocks that are in their way.
One of the main problems of regular meetings is that they tend to go on longer than planned. By keeping things to a specific time, topics that have the potential to start discussions are added to a list and discussed in greater detail by the parties who are most affected by the issues, ensuring that others in the team don’t have their time impacted unnecessarily.
What are the benefits of stand-up meetings?
Lacklustre communication is unhelpful at the best of times, but during a project, it can lead to all sorts of errors, issues and even failure. By outlining progress and detailing areas for improvement, the teams know where everyone is progress wise, highlighting potential problems that need to be dealt with after the meeting is over.
Likewise, stand-ups allow each team member to have the floor, giving them the chance to share their work with others, clearly identifying roles and responsibilities and preventing the creation of silos, stopping work from progressing. Where possible, including cross-functional team members in daily stand-ups is also key to boosting transparency within the organisation, preventing teams from becoming insular and isolated.
Because of the improved communication and transparency within the team, it’s only natural that trust becomes fostered as a result of daily stand-ups. With the joint understanding of roles, responsibilities, work objectives and outcomes, teams can start to see a stronger sense of trust among colleagues simply because of these short, effective face-to-face interactions.
Greater highlighting of issues
There’s a chance that certain problems only come into view when a team comes together and talks through their various tasks and duties. No matter what department, this can be helpful in allowing the team to understand how certain tasks affect everyone within a business. One of the principles of agile methodologies is minimising the ‘blame game’ culture that can be prevalent in certain companies. Instead, agile and daily stand-ups embrace the change posed by particular challenges, allowing issues to come into focus which can then be dealt with outside of the stand-up.
Helps to empower the team
With everyone having their own schedules to deal with, getting the opportunity to spend time together becomes increasingly infrequent. By standing together for 15 minutes each day, it helps to remind everyone involved how the team is there to support one another. While business objectives may differ, everyone is there for the same reason: to achieve these objectives. Stand-ups are a crucial reminder that you’re in this together.
What are some stand-up meeting best practices?
Like any other style of meeting, if you don’t have a plan, agenda or any techniques in place, then everyone’s time is sure to go to waste. Keep these best practices in mind when making the move to stand-up meetings.
Meet when it suits you
Although we’ve made reference to daily stand-up meetings earlier in this article, really it’s important to find a frequency that suits you and your team. Daily meetings might be excessive, especially when collaborative tools like Slack exist and make conversation and teamwork convenient for each team member.
You might want to try stand-up meetings as needed, or on a weekly basis. You’ll know the right amount of times to meet once you’ve given things a go and have a sense of what works for you and everyone on your team.
Keep things brief
The majority of stand-up meetings are brief simply because people don’t like to be stood up for lengthy durations of time. 15 minutes generally allows everyone to stay focused without elaborating on details too much – the point of a stand-up is to be quick and efficient, trimming the fat of the lengthier meetings you might be used to.
Focus on the three main points
In order to keep things brief, it pays to keep things focused and structured by concentrating on the following points:
Accomplishments: What did you complete yesterday? Goals: What are you doing today? Obstacles: Is there anything keeping you from accomplishing today’s goals?
When things do get off-topic, you can course-correct by steering things back to these three topics. Let participants know you appreciate them bringing up these different topics, but save them for another time by adding it to a separate list for later.
Establish a goal
Let everyone know why you’re holding a stand-up and what’s expected of them during it in advance. This allows everyone to understand what they can share and how to share it, keeping everyone on the same page heading into things. For instance, is your goal to keep communication flowing on a project, or provide visibility of a specific goal’s progress? Perhaps it’s to assign team members with the next steps of a project or to prioritise certain tasks.
Whatever it is, the format works for all types of teams and situations, and crucially, keeps things on track.
Let everyone talk
One of the most important parts of a stand-up meeting is this: no one should dominate the meeting. Reserve time to let all attendees speak whether it’s to answer questions or to update others on their own progress; the short timeframe means that everyone should share important information but in the most concise manner possible.
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