Office Hack: 10 Ways to Make Stand-Up Meetings Better

The stand-up meeting is just like a regular meeting, but standing, right?

Wrong! The stand-up meeting is a delicately nuanced method of project management disguised as a daily reminder that your legs work. These daily “check-in” meetings are common in the Agile software development world, but because they’re so great at fostering teamwork and transparency, they’re growing in popularity across many different departments for many types of projects.

You can easily experience the health benefits of a short standing break, but a truly effective stand-up requires preparation, experimentation and motivation. Here are 10 tips on making stand-up meetings better.

Rally the Troops

A stand-up is meant to inject energy into its participants. Playing an audible signal or short song will trigger people like Pavlov’s bell and start the meeting on a lighter note. For example:

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Signal the End

If you’re going to signal the start of the meeting, signal the end of it, too. This is the last opportunity to energize team members before they return to work. Again, I find Monty Python to be quite fitting in this scenario, but you could also use a team cheer or signature sign-off.

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Instill Intrigue

At Laserfiche, our stand-up meeting leaders connect their laptops to a projector for everyone to view current projects. While waiting for employees to arrive, display an interesting image on the screen. It could be an animal, a meme or a short comic. The trick is to find an image that doesn’t spark too much off-topic conversation. You should also change the image routinely so people wonder what they’ll see next.

Cat got your tongue? Good. Let’s start the meeting.

Actually Stand Up

Even though stand-ups are intentionally brief, people will still sit down if there are chairs or tables nearby. Hold the meeting in an open space or a room without chairs. This seems obvious, but people will often sit down without even realizing it.

Keep It Short

Stand-up meetings are inherently short as people generally don’t like standing for hours on end (unless they have a sweet standing desk). If you’re having trouble staying under the recommended 15 minutes, try scheduling the stand-up right before another meeting in the same location. That way you’ll be forced into brevity!

Keep It Small

If the aforementioned tip isn’t viable, perhaps your meeting has too many attendees. If your stand-up has more than 15 members, then that leaves less than a minute for each member to speak as it takes time to start and end the meeting, transition between tasks or speakers, etc.

Realistically, you can’t just tell a few people to stop coming to stand-ups and leave it at that. You might need to rearrange teams so that everyone attends a small but effective stand-up.

Stick to the Three Questions

Each stand-up member should address the following questions:

  1. What did I accomplish yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. What obstacles are impeding my progress?

These questions are absolutely fundamental to stand-up. By only focusing on a 48-hour window of work (yesterday and today), the answers to these questions will be naturally brief.

Stay Focused, not Officious

Every stand-up needs a leader. This leader can rotate to create autonomy or be designated to maintain consistency. In either case, the person who facilitates the stand-up must balance time-awareness and flexibility.

Stand-ups are designed to address a limited amount of topics, but employees should not be punished if discussion strays and creative ideas begin to form. Encourage these people to continue their conversations offline and continue the meeting.

Evaluate Initial Stand-Ups

If you’re just starting to implement stand-up meetings, expect some trial and error. For example, you might conduct meetings in a “round robin” style but find that people lose focus while they’re waiting for their turn to speak. In this case, a task-based format might be more effective, as employees will speak frequently and briefly depending on the project being discussed.

Experiment with different group sizes, discussion methods, meeting times and locations until the stand-up finds its sweet spot. Then . . .

Maintain Consistency

Efficiency is tied to routine. Start stand-ups at the same time and don’t wait for stragglers. Stick to the format that works best for the team. But remember, the goal of a stand-up is to leave employees more alert and prepared to work than before. If “routine” starts to become more synonymous with “boring” than “efficient,” or if the team members change enough to require new methods, then it’s time to reevaluate.