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Meetings can go two ways: either they are quick and productive, or dry and drawn-out. Most people’s experience tends to fall in the latter category. Harvard Business Review conducted a study of 182 managers in various industries, and found that 65% reported meetings kept them from completing work, while 71% saw meetings as “unproductive and inefficient.”

If meetings are so important, how come everyone sees them as a waste of time?

This is the question that stand-up meetings attempt to answer. We’ll cover the basics: everything from how to set up these meetings and the advantages they provide for your team.


What is a Stand-Up Meeting?

Also known as standing meetings or daily stand-ups, a stand-up meeting is a brief meeting held while the meeting participants are standing up. The standing requirement ensures that the meeting is quick and focused, with the main purpose of synchronizing the team and optimizing processes.

Stand-up meetings originated from agile development teams, particularly in the software industry. Team members from different disciplines across the world needed to understand the current state of their project while staying cognizant of potential obstacles and impediments. Today, stand-up meetings are being used by companies in retail, technology, hospitality, marketing, and many other industries.

There are two different types of a stand-up meeting, the kanban, and the scrum:

Kanban stand-up: Focuses on the team’s kanban board— a visual tool highlighting tasks to-do, tasks in progress, and completed tasks. The goal is to prioritize tasks (also called issues or stories) and identify/eliminate bottlenecks.

Scrum stand-up: Focuses on the team’s experiences— the work accomplished the previous day, work to be done today, and any impediments that affected their ability to complete their tasks.

In short, the main difference between kanban and scrum meetings is that scrum meetings focus on the people, while kanban meetings focus on the tasks.


Rules for Stand-Up Meetings

Now that you’ve read up on stand-up meetings, you’re ready to start implementing them in your own company or team. First things first, how do you start a stand-up meeting?

Start by picking a meeting time and place. It has to be during a window when everyone is alert and ready to start the day, so aim for an early morning meeting. The agreed-upon time must also be recurring, so if you choose 8 am, it must be 8 am for every workday. If you cannot meet in person, then take the time in choosing a solid video conferencing tool. Zoom, Discord, and Google Hangouts are all free solutions for teams of all sizes.

Keep the debates and questions to a minimum. If you must, develop focused questions with a clear intent— what was accomplished yesterday? What roadblocks did you encounter? How can other team members be of help? Make sure to keep it short and sweet, and to save any longer discussions for a separate meeting.

Develop a structure. The best way to keep stand-up meetings efficient is to have a template for each person’s response. Most stand-up meetings start with top priorities, tasks for the day, and whether help is needed. Adjust this outline for your team’s needs.

Include remote workers in the stand-up. Remote workers are the ones often left out of the loop when it comes to certain projects, as the difference in location and time zones can be an impediment to communication. Choose a time that works for people working remotely so that everyone can have a chance to participate.

Follow-up as necessary. Stand-up meetings shouldn’t just be a routine, they should lead to important actions and conversations. After a stand-up, take the time to assess any of the topics brought up and see if it warrants further discussion. Stand-up meetings should act as a jumping board, not replace meetings entirely.


Advantages of Stand-Up Meetings

Team alignment – Stand-ups can involve people from vastly different backgrounds and departments, which can lead to big insights. For example, a person engineering the code for an app can help inform a designer’s work on the app’s user interface.

Reduce meeting times – Unlike the long conference calls, we all dread, stand-up meetings should take about as long as it takes to make a cup of coffee. These shorter meetings should erase the need for drawn-out meetings, making everyone happier.

Team focus – Stand-up meetings have a few central questions that can be easily answered, such as “what was completed yesterday”, and “what needs to be done today?” Cutting through the small talk and distractions will ensure the team focuses on only the most pressing issues.

Group productivity – With different people in a single meeting, it’s easier to get an understanding of the current state of the project, and any obstacles that may block progress. As problems are identified and resolved more quickly, deadlines and milestones can be met more efficiently.

Team energy – Finally, stand-up meetings can be empowering. They develop a sense of camaraderie within teams, as everyone can see the contributions of each individual and how it fits within the bigger picture. Since the meetings are snappy, people can focus their energy on the work rather than talking about work.

Of all the investments a company makes, the most precious is time. It’s the one thing that you can’t take back or make more of. That’s why leaders and managers have a responsibility to lead and allocate resources in a way that saves everyone time, rather than squandering it.

Stand-up meetings are just one solution. Everyone can appreciate meetings that are short, get straight to the point, and involve everyone within a team. While they may not ever completely replace the standard meeting, stand-ups can lead to more meaningful, smarter conversations.

Looking for more tips on leading successful meetings? Read this previous post by Novel Coworking. Also, read our ultimate guide to workplace productivity here.