The Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers across a range of industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their work, 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking, and 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
If meetings are causing this much friction in the modern workplace, how are IT and Business Technology (BT) teams staying aligned without compromising time to focus, overall efficiency, and team rapport?
Overwhelmingly, BT teams hold daily stand-ups—a quick meeting where the entire team gets together and shares their progress on current tasks, what they’re working on that day, and any challenges they’ve encountered along the way. BT teams across all industries have adopted this practice to keep their teams on track.
The beauty of a stand-up meeting is that the same principles apply whether you are in a meeting room together with your team or hopping on a zoom call at a certain time—as more and more companies support remote and hybrid work, stand-up might look a little different, but even if everyone can’t physically come together, there are plenty of ways to facilitate this kind of quick, daily check-in virtually.
When meeting in person, the setup is important. For the meeting, you and your team should more or less prepare to have the following: display screen, meeting room or space, and a digital project board. For an in person stand-up, it is best practice to have everyone stand up (hence the name!) in order to engage the team. Atlassian also recommends getting a physical object (like a ball) for teammates to throw to the next person they’d like to hear from.
For a virtual stand-up, however, it is important to have a set time everyday that accommodates all time zones, a proper video conferencing tool with screen-sharing capability, and a digital project board. While it may not be possible for a virtual stand-up to throw a ball, you might follow the same order each time or have a team leader run through a list so you don’t spend time trying to figure out who should go when.
So what is the key to the perfect stand-up? And how are BT and IT professionals using this type of daily check-in to reduce time in lengthy meetings and keep their team aligned? We asked the Systematic Community for their insights on what makes the perfect stand-up. Here’s what they had to say:
Shorter is sweeter
15 minutes is all this daily ritual should take. Stand-up reduces time spent in meetings by 34 percent and has been shown to boost group productivity. Stand-ups may decrease the number of meetings needed throughout the week because it cuts the fat from long meetings where attention may fade and everyone is drawn away from real work.
When you implement a stand-up, the team is narrowly focused on identifying priorities and challenges at the beginning of the day in order to remove any blockers and make sure the path for the rest of the day’s work is clear. The intent is not to solve the issues during the meeting—it is to understand what the challenges are and only set up necessary meetings to address blockers. Who knew that just 15 minutes can make that big of an impact?
Peloton is one of many companies with a business systems team that leverages stand-up. Solutions Engineer Shyman Bhojwani explained, “We generally do a 15 min stand-up via a zoom meeting or via slack: What was completed the last day, what is the plan or action items for the current day, keeping it high-level. Any escalations or blockers are flagged during these stand-up meetings.”
Stand-up meetings are meant to be completely focused on your team and your team only. According to The 2020 Scrum Guide, there are three types of Scrum team members that should attend a daily stand-up: the BT team, the project manager, and the product owner.
In his day-to-day, SeatGeek’s Senior Product Manager Joseph Blanchett notes that stand-up is a “good time for the project or product manager to make sure that the highest priority work is happening first and to identify (not resolve) blockers and dependencies.”
Provide some structure
Stand-up meetings are generally informal, but it’s important that they still have structure to make sure that the team does not get sidetracked and the meeting runs as efficiently as possible. Most stand-ups consist of each team member sharing three key pieces of information:
- What they’ve completed since the last meeting
- What they plan to complete before the next meeting
- What obstacles they are facing in completing their deliverables
Another approach when going about creating an agenda for the stand-up is going by the project and asking each person involved in each project to explain what are the blockers involved. Time should be allotted to briefly address any obstacles faced by team members, but if a larger discussion is warranted, it should occur after the stand-up meeting.
There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to running a stand-up: Identify what your team needs, and determine what structure will best serve your goals.
Automate, automate, automate!
With rapid growth comes expanding teams, and running a daily stand-up can start to be a bit time-consuming. Depending on the size of your team and whether or not you work remotely or in-person, running your stand-up meetings via Slack may be more effective, because it’s (1) minimally disruptive, (2) faster than in-person, and (3) threaded Slack conversations allow for side discussions that don’t waste everyone else’s time. All the answers then become public and you are able to cheer each other on or help anyone that may need some assistance.
This can also be a great way to get to better know your coworkers. “We use a stand-up bot every day to stay connected without doing a long call (don’t we all have enough Zoom meetings?). I chose to have the bot start with ‘How are you feeling this morning?’ instead of just jumping into work,” says Kristine Colosimo, Director of Marketing and Communications at Workato. “It gives the team a great way to interact with non-work items.”
Leverage project management tools
According to a study conducted by Forrester, new business objectives are changing the nature of project delivery, with 77% of surveyed businesses reporting that the number and scale of projects has increased, and 70%reporting a rise in unanticipated project-related tasks.
The benefits of implementing a project management tool are endless, and the proof is in the numbers: 66% of companies using project management software completed projects within their original budget, compared to 47% of businesses operating without a project management tool, and teams using project management tools are also more likely to finish projects on time.
Project management tools can get a team’s products to market faster, make product status more transparent, and offer a clear agenda for stand-up.