We all attended meetings that were about 30 minutes too long.
We laugh at “it could have been an email” GIF, sigh and carry on with the present day.
Yet the truth is, unnecessary meetings cost us more than time. Doodle 2019 Meeting Status Report estimated that poorly organized meetings cost U.S. businesses $ 399 billion.
One or two unnecessary meetings a week may seem insignificant, but when you consider the value of an entire year of meetings, the impact is huge.
As more and more companies remote work, the number of meetings is also increasing. So how can teams ensure that their meetings stay productive? Stand-ups are one way to solve this problem.
What is a standing meeting?
A stand-up meeting, also known as a daily scrum, is a short meeting (up to 15 minutes) where each team member presents their current priorities and obstacles. It follows the Agile Software Development Framework, which aims to streamline project workflows and improve team collaboration.
To understand why stand-ups exist, we must first understand the agile methodology.
For a long time, many companies used a waterfall model for their projects. This meant that teams would approach projects one step at a time and assume that the requirements would stay the same throughout development. The problem with the waterfall approach is that:
- The teams are not always aligned.
- Unclear requirements often delay progress.
- Testing does not begin until development is complete.
Agile is built around iterative development, which makes teams more involved in the progress of the project. The teams work in sprints and through stand-ups, problems are resolved quickly and efficiently.
Stand-ups are usually daily. However, some teams have them less frequently. To maintain the benefits of the process, a stand-up meeting should not take place less than once a week. The main reason is that it’s harder to keep track of everyone’s progress and overcome obstacles as they arise.
We also know that business priorities can change quickly. Having stand-ups that are too far apart can create information gaps between teams and slow down delivery times.
Standing meeting format
In a stand-up meeting, each team member should answer the following questions:
- What have you been working on since the last meeting?
- What are you working on now?
- Are there any blockers hindering your progress?
Regular updates help team members and leaders track each other’s progress and assess what needs to be done to meet sprint goals.
Take my role as a writer on a blog team as an example.
During a stand-up, here’s what I would say: “Yesterday I finished writing Article X and completed my second draft for Article Y. Today I will be working on uploading Article Y to the Content Management System (CMS ) and will write two outlines for new articles. My current hurdle is that I lost access to the CMS and needed to connect with someone in IT to regain access. ”
From there, my manager could suggest that I put me in touch with a specific engineer on the IT side and follow me after the stand-up. Following this format gives everyone involved in the meeting a clear overview of what you are working on and how it will affect the sprint.
Best practices for standing meetings
1. Keep the meeting short.
If your standing meeting lasts an hour, you’re doing it wrong. This type of meeting aims to synchronize all team members. It is not a meeting to plan, solve problems or reflect.
Ideally, your stand-up will last between five and 15 minutes. While this may sound short, it works well when everyone else is focused. That is why everyone should prepare what they are going to say in advance and stick to the script.
To keep meetings productive, have your Scrum Master or team leader keep track of time and step in whenever needed to get things done.
2. Follow-up after the meeting.
As mentioned earlier, stand-up meetings have very defined goals: knowing everyone’s main goal and determining roadblocks that may affect the sprint.
Once issues are identified, follow-up meetings with smaller team members can be scheduled to resolve them, either to brainstorm or resolve solutions.
For example, let’s say during your stand-up, the UX designer on your team declares that they have a roadblock with the app design requirements and need more instruction from the product owner. While it’s good to mention the problem, stand-up is not the time to go into detail. Ignore the resolution of the problem and save it for a follow-up meeting with said product owner.
3. Keep it consistent.
Imagine attending a meeting every day not knowing what to expect. It is unsettling at best, chaotic at worst. For standing meetings, three things should stay the same:
- Agenda – There are only three main areas that a stand-up should cover: yesterday’s results, today’s priorities and current obstacles.
- The frequency of the meeting – If meetings are irregular, how will team members stay on the same page? When you skip meeting days, things can slip through the cracks and lead to more issues during the sprint.
- The time length – Fifteen minutes is the magic number for stand-ups. Make them a lot longer and that turns them into something else that probably won’t be as productive.
Standing meeting ideas
1. In fact, stand up.
Have you ever let out a sigh at your first meeting? Not because you dread it, but because you know it’s going to be long and you feel comfortable.
Well, that’s exactly what you want to avoid in a standing meeting. The reason they are called stand-ups is that they are meant to be fast. So fast, in fact, that you could get up. If your team is struggling to stay true to their task, take the chairless approach.
Have everyone stand up while everyone presents. This will help ensure that everyone gets to the point and sticks to the topic.
2. Use an accessory.
Instead of going round the table, have someone start with a prop, like a squeaky ball or toy. Once they’ve presented, they’ll throw it at someone else. He will continue to walk around the room until everyone is gone.
Accessories can be very useful during meetings as they help participants stay engaged. The anticipation of receiving the accessory can keep everyone on their toes. It’s easy to drift off when you know your turn isn’t for 10 minutes. This strategy encourages focus while making things fun.
3. Incorporate an icebreaker.
Most of the stand-ups happen on a daily basis. However, if your team drives them less often, it may be useful to use an icebreaker to relax everyone.
It can be a joke, riddle, question, or GIF. On the HubSpot blog team, a rotating team member asks a question to start the meeting. Previous questions ranged from “What is your dream vacation?” to “What would be the name of your six-word memoir?”
He starts each meeting on a light note before moving on to the details of the work.
4. Use a messaging system for asynchronous stand-ups.
To set it up, create a bot or purchase an external bot tool (like GeekBot) which allows you to:
- Send daily prompts to your team based on their working hours.
- Collect their responses and send them to the team channel.
What’s great about this approach is that it allows everyone to stay on the same page while sticking to their schedules. Automation is also a huge time saver and streamlines the process.
Text-based stand-ups also help everyone stay focused. Face-to-face meetings, whether in person or virtual, can easily get off topic and be a huge waste of time. By limiting the number of questions members receive, it helps to stay specific and get the key information needed for the stand-up.
On that same note, they prevent side chats that can hijack the conversation. Team members can send messages to each other or start a discussion thread that won’t disrupt the flow of information.
Following the stand-up format may not eliminate the need for longer meetings. However, it can improve communication between your teams and keep everyone aligned with your project goals.