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Effective Stand Up Meetings

Does your company hold Stand Up Meetings?  If not, would your team benefit from quick, regular updates from fellow team members?  Here’s a quick rundown on Stand up Meetings:

 

Wikipedia describes a Stand Up Meeting as:  A stand-up meeting (or simply stand-up) is a daily team meeting held to provide a status update to the team members. The ‘semi-real-time’ status allows participants to know about potential challenges as well as coordinate efforts to resolve difficult and/or time-consuming issues.

 

The meetings are usually time boxed to 5–15 minutes and are held standing up to remind people to keep the meeting short and to the point.  Most people usually refer to this meeting as just the stand-up, although it is sometimes also referred to as the morning roll call.

 

The meeting is usually held at the same time and place every working day. All team members are encouraged to attend, but the meetings are not postponed if some of the team members are not present. One of the crucial features is that the meeting is intended to be a status update to other team members and not a status update to the management or other stakeholders. Team members take turns speaking, sometimes passing along a token to indicate the current person allowed to speak. Each member talks about their progress since the last stand-up, the anticipated work until the next stand-up and any impediments they foresee.

 

Team members may sometimes ask for short clarifications but the stand-up does not usually consist of full fledged discussions.

 

Jason Yip, a Principal Consultant at Thoughtworks, gives some great insight on what makes a Stand Up Meeting works.  He suggests several goals for a Daily Stand Up Meeting:

 

1.     Help start the day well.  A good start means that the stand-up meeting should give energy, not take it. Energy comes from instilling a sense of purpose and urgency; a clear sense of the purpose and a clear understanding what needs to be done to achieve it. It’s important to distinguish this from “false urgency”, where people are geared up for activity but are without shared direction.

 

2.    Support improvement.  We can’t fix problems we don’t know about so a large part of stand-ups is about exposing problems to allow us to improve. Improvement is not just about problem solving though. Sharing better techniques and ideas is also important.

 

3.    Reinforce focus on the right things.  It is too easy to confuse effort with work. The stand-up should encourage a focus on moving work through the system in order to achieve our objectives, not encourage pointless activity.

 

4.    Reinforce the sense of team.  More so than artificial “team-building” exercises, effective teams are built by regularly communicating, working, and helping each other. This is also strongly tied with team members helping each other with shared obstacles. And an effective team is autonomous, otherwise known as self-managing.

 

The stand-up should be supporting the creation of an environment that encourages people to raise problems by constructing a narrative of other people helping when problems are raised.

 

5.     Communicate what is going on.  Status is about answering a couple questions:  How is the work progressing?  Is there anything else interesting that the team should know? 

 

There should be other additional mechanisms to answer these questions but the daily stand-up is another opportunity to ensure valuable information doesn’t fall through the cracks.

 

Yip also gives a few examples of how to know if your Stand Up Meetings are going poorly.  Some of these are: Team members show up late, team members speak directly to managers instead of team, socializing, story telling, problem solving, low energy.

 

Basically, if you can answer “yes” to these questions, your daily stand up is going well.  Are people energized? Do people have an improvement mindset? Are people focused on our objectives? Are people working together as a team? Does everyone know what’s going on?