We have all been to meetings that lasted about 30 minutes longer. We laugh at “this could have been an email” GIF, I sigh and we get on with our days. However, the truth is that unnecessary meetings are costing us much more than time. Doodle 2019 Meeting Status Report estimated that poorly organized meetings are costing US companies $ 399 billion.
One or two unnecessary meetings a week may seem insignificant, but when you consider the meetings of an entire year, the impact is considerable. As more companies move toward remote work, the number of meetings is also increasing. So how can teams ensure that their meetings remain productive? Stand-ups are one way to solve that.
<h2>What is a standing meeting?</h2> A standing 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 is intended to streamline project workflows and improve collaboration between teams. To understand why stand-ups exist, you must first understand the agile methodology. For a long time, many companies used a waterfall model for projects. This meant that teams would tackle projects one stage at a time and assume that the requirements would remain the same throughout development. The problem with the waterfall approach is that: Teams are not always aligned. Unclear requirements often delay progress. Testing only begins after development is done. Agile is based on iterative development, which makes teams more involved in project progress. Teams work in sprints and through stand-ups, problems are addressed quickly and efficiently. Stand-up meetings are usually daily. However, some teams have them less frequently. To maintain the benefits of the process, a stand-up meeting should not be held less than once a week. The main reason is that it makes it difficult to keep track of everyone's progress and addresses obstacles as they appear. 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 delivery times.
Standing meeting format
During a stand-up meeting, each team member should answer the following questions: What have you worked on since the last meeting? What are you working on now? Are there any blockers preventing your progress? Regular updates help team members and leaders keep track of everyone’s progress and assess what needs to be done to meet the sprint goals. Let’s use my role as a writer on a blogging team as an example. During a stand-up, this is what I would say: “Yesterday, I finished writing article X and completed my second draft for article Y. Today, I will work on uploading article Y to the content management system (CMS) and write two outlines for new articles. My current hurdle is that I lost access to the CMS and need to connect with someone from IT to regain access. ” From there, my manager might suggest that I connect with a specific engineer on the IT side and follow up with me after the meeting. Following this format gives everyone involved in the meeting a clear overview of what you are working on and how that will affect the sprint.
Best practices for standing meetings
1. Keep the meeting short.
If your stand-up meeting is one hour long, you’re doing it wrong. This type of meeting is intended to keep all team members in sync. It is not a meeting to plan, solve problems, or exchange ideas. Ideally, your stand-up will be between five and 15 minutes. While that may sound short, it works well when everyone is on task. That is why everyone should prepare what they will say in advance and stick to the script. To keep your meetings productive, have your scrum master or team leader keep time and act whenever necessary to move forward.
2. Follow-up after the meeting.
As mentioned above, standing meetings have very definite goals: to know everyone’s main focus and to determine the obstacles that can affect the sprint. Once problems have been identified, follow-up meetings with smaller team members can be scheduled to address them, either to brainstorm solutions or resolve them. For example, let’s say that during your stand-up, your team’s UX designer says that they have a roadblock with the application design requirements and need more guidance from the product owner. While it’s great to bring up the issue, stand-up isn’t the time to go into detail. Skip troubleshooting and save it for a follow-up meeting with that product owner.
3. Stay consistent.
Imagine attending a meeting every day and having no idea what to expect. It’s haunting at best, chaotic at worst. For standing meetings, three things should stay the same: The agenda: There are only three main areas that a stand-up should cover: yesterday’s results, today’s priorities, and current obstacles. Meeting frequency: If meetings are irregular, how will team members stay on the same page? When you skip meeting days, things can go wrong and lead to more problems in the sprint. The length of time: fifteen minutes is the magic number for stand-ups. Make them much longer and turn them into something else that probably won’t be as productive.
Ideas for standing meetings
1. Really get up.
Have you ever let out a sigh when you first sat down for a meeting? Not because you fear it, but because you know it will be long and you are feeling comfortable. Well, that’s exactly what you want to avoid during a stand-up meeting. The reason they are called stand-ups is that they are meant to be fast. So fast, in fact, that it could be on its feet. If your team is having trouble concentrating on task, take the no-chair approach. Have everyone stand up as each person introduces himself. This will help ensure that everyone gets to the point and doesn’t stray from the topic.
2. Use an accessory.
Instead of following the order of going around the table, have someone start with an accessory, such as a ball or squeaky toy. Once they have presented it, they will release it to someone else. It will continue walking around the room until everyone is gone. Accessories can be very useful during meetings, as they help attendees stay engaged. The anticipation of receiving the accessory below can keep everyone on their toes. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you know your turn isn’t for 10 minutes. This strategy encourages concentration while doing fun things.
3. Incorporate an icebreaker.
Most meetings are held daily. However, if your team does them less often, it can help to use an icebreaker to relax everyone. It can be a joke, a riddle, a question, or a GIF. On the HubSpot blog team, we have a rotating team member asking a question to start the meeting. The above questions range from: “What is the vacation of your dreams?” to “What would be the name of your memories in six words?” Start each meeting on a cheery note before getting down to the essential details of the job.
4. Use a messaging system for asynchronous stand-ups.
If you have team members in different time zones, you may not be able to find a time that works for everyone. That is where messaging software like Loose or Microsoft Teams Be useful. To set it up, create a bot or purchase an external bot tool (like Geekbot) that allows you to: Send daily notices to your team based on their working hours. Collect their responses and submit them to the team channel.
What’s great about this approach is that it keeps everyone on the same page while working within their hours. Automation also saves a lot of time 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 get to the point and get the key information needed for the stand-up. On that same note, they avoid side discussions that can divert the conversation. Team members can send direct messages to each other or start a thread that doesn’t interrupt the flow of information. Following the standing format may not eliminate the need for longer meetings. However, you can improve communication between your teams and keep everyone aligned with your project goals.