February 22, 2018 | By

7 Rules for Effective Stand-Up Meetings

In today’s drive to have the perfect company culture, meetings can fall under serious scrutiny. Surveys have repeatedly found that workers prefer fewer meetings, but doing business means getting together at least occasionally.

As a more casual alternative to traditional get-togethers, many startups are switching to stand-up meetings, which sets a completely different tone than seated gatherings. While “stand-ups” are a favorite among agile development teams, they’re gaining popularity among all types of teams that need a good way to share progress, remove roadblocks, and stay aligned.

How do you make this format work for your team? Here are seven tips to help you get started.

1. Only meet when necessary

One common employee complaint is that many meetings could easily be replaced by an email. Consider investing in a collaboration tool that facilitates ongoing conversations between team members when it’s convenient for them.

Many development teams do daily stand-ups, but you should choose a cadence that works for your team. Try stand-ups only as needed or have them on a weekly basis, as long as they stay short, which brings me to my next point…

2. Keep it short and sweet

The very point of a stand-up is that it will be brief since nobody takes the time to get comfortable. Shoot for a meeting that takes 15 minutes or less, getting out the information intended without elaborating on details.

If more information is needed, you can always follow up afterward with an email or team chat. I love this tip from Atlassian, which recommends that if you need a sidebar during a stand-up, grab a few minutes right after the meeting. The point of a stand-up is to be quick and efficient — don’t ruin the flow by adding another meeting.

3. Establish a goal

It’s important that everyone understand why you’re having a stand-up and what’s expected of them. So many non-technical stand-ups I’ve attended, devolve into pointless updates that no one pays attention to. What a waste of time.

Make sure everyone knows the goal of the stand-up so they understand what to share and how to share it. Is your goal to keep communication flowing on a project? Provide visibility into the progress of a common goal? Prioritize tasks and resources? Come to a decision and assign next steps?

A quick stand-up format works for all types of teams and situations — just be sure everyone is on the same page and you don’t get off track.

4. Maintain structure

A stand-up should be informal by nature, but that doesn’t mean it should be disorganized or lack focus. The meeting leader should help maintain structure and ensure no one goes off on a tangent.

Most stand-ups conform to the following structure where everyone goes around sharing:

  • Progress updates
  • What they’re working on
  • Blockers and challenges

But remember, you can make a stand-up whatever you need it to be! For some teams, a task-based format works best. Instead of conducting the meeting as a “round robin” the meeting agenda goes down a list of projects or tasks where individuals share depending on what projects they are contributing to.

5. Make remote employees feel like they’re there

A stand-up is a great way to keep employees feeling connected and engaged. Everyone stays in the loop on progress and sees how each team member is contributing to the larger goal.  Don’t blow it by leaving out remote employees due to bad collaboration tools.  Here’s what you need to make sure everyone is seamlessly connected:

  • Video conferencing. Everyone should be able to hear and see one another. This may involve individual webcams if everyone is remote, or video conference rooms solutions for a mix of in-office and remote employees.
  • Screen sharing capabilities. If you need to share something on screen, it needs to be easy to display for everyone.
  • An easy way to join. Joining a stand-up should be hassle-free so make sure everyone has easy access to the meeting link or can join from their mobile device if they’re on the go.

6. Give everyone a chance to talk

The short nature of a stand-up meeting can make it tempting to turn it into a “talking head” situation. Instead, reserve a few minutes to let attendees speak, whether it’s to answer questions or update team members on the progress of their projects. No one should dominate a stand-up meeting. With the short time frame, everyone needs to share high-level or important information as concisely as possible. This isn’t the time to brag about how busy you are.

7. Don’t skip follow-up

Whether your meeting is conducted remotely, in person, while seated, or while standing, follow-up is essential. Don’t skip this important part of the process with your stand-up meetings. There are multiple ways to follow up, but the end result should be that you ensure what was discussed in the meeting moves to the next step.

Meetings are an important part of getting work done, but many employees face them with dread. Stand-up meetings can help you accomplish your goals while still upholding the casual, fun work environment you’re trying to create. With the right approach, your employees will look forward to your collaborative get-togethers, seeing them as a beneficial way to interact with their fellow team members.

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