There are only three types of meetings: informational meetings, problem solving meetings, and feedback meetings. Within each of these types of meetings are narrower categories; for example, a brainstorming meeting can be considered a feedback meeting because the purpose is to get feedback (in the form of ideas) about a particular issue.
One of the most effective types of informational meetings is the standup meeting. The reason it’s called a standup is because the meeting is so short that most of the time people can stand for the meeting (unless of course they are unable.) The purpose of the standup is to conduct an incredibly brief meeting dispensing only the absolutely essential information.
Let’s backtrack for a second. I believe standups came into being because sit down meetings take too long. I’m not opposed to long meetings, as long as they’re needed. However, I must admit it’s rare to have a 10-15 minute sit down meeting.
It’s sad to say but some people feel that, if they call a meeting, they must talk for a certain length of time (like the quality of the meeting is directly proportional to the length of the meeting.) So in some organizations, sitting in a conference room means the meeting will take a minimum of 30 minutes. In others, it might mean a one-hour minimum.
I think this is something that we have been conditioned to accept and expect over the years. Standup meetings may help change that:
Standups are regularly scheduled quick meetings. Usually held in an open space, standups are designed to quickly share information. And I mean quickly. This meeting shouldn’t last over 10 minutes. Fifteen tops.
Standups are designed to pass along work information. In my experience, standups are conducted at the beginning of shifts. The purpose is to give the team information they needed for the day. The departing shift would debrief the arriving shift. If something happened with a customer and the arriving shift needed to follow-up, this was where the information was passed along. They aren’t designed for long philosophical conversations. They aren’t for complex issues. They are a quick, “Here’s what you need to know. Have a great day.”
Standups are best when the team doesn’t become complacent. Even short shift briefings can become a bit routine. One thing I’ve seen done in my past experience to keep people on their toes (no pun intended) was schedule the briefing at an odd time. We found briefings at the quarter hour (i.e. :00, :15, :30, :45) automatically took longer because people were late. So we conducted standups at :50 or :20.
Standups can bring the team together. Senior management team can use standup meetings to occasionally recognize and reward employees during standups. Nothing elaborate but, looking back on my experience with standups, it was nice to hear, “Before we end, let’s give a shout out to Bill for passing his certification exam.” Or “I want to thank everyone for working so hard on this project. I’ve got Starbucks gift cards for everyone. Have a coffee on me today.”
Standup meetings can educate the business. The meeting allows everyone to hear what’s going on in the organization. Standups shouldn’t be people-specific or department-specific. If you’re working, you’re welcome to attend. Depending upon the operation, maybe someone does need to stay and take care of customers, but one representative can attend and bring back information. In fact, employees can take turns attending the standup, so they are able to build relationships around the organization.
A few years ago, transparency was a much talked about concept. Then it fell into the corporate buzzword category and faded a bit. I’m hearing people talk about transparency again. Maybe we’ve realized that the concept of making sure employees know what is going on in the business is important – even if the term for it is considered a buzzword. Standup meetings are a great way to share what’s happening in the company and build a team.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby at the Gainesville 34th Street Graffiti Wall