Why Should We Use Stand Up Meetings

  • Stand Ups
  • Huddles
  • Tool Boxes
  • Daily Accountability Meetings

The time when high performing meetings get together and meet for a brief amount of time to talk about all things performance.  They are called all sorts of different names, personally I am not worried about that and teams I have worked with have used all of these terms (and probably others), what is important is that this time is critical to their overall success.

To run successful stand up meetings is a dose or science combined with a sprinkle of art.

The science part is relatively easy to explain.  Firstly they should happen at the same time, same place, every day - no exceptions. There is no option to skip them if someone is away (especially the leader or boss etc) nor is it an option to sit.  Standing makes sure it is brief and to the point. Because no one likes a meeting that drags on longer than it should, definitely not the Lean guy! Supporting this is a structured agenda, having a set agenda, even a checklist ensures all the key elements are covered irrespective of who is leading it.  

It is all about setting a disciplined routine that allows teams to plan, reflect and respond to the prioritised work activities.  The sharp reader will spot that is following the Deming Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle that has been mentioned in past blog posts. Setting the game plan for the day or week is a primary objective of this time.  As is being the central point of communication for everyone, opportunity for leaders to reinforce or remind teams about the wider vision, plan or strategy.  A little bit often makes all of these actions more achievable and relevant to teams.

In the ideal situation, all of this is supported by a visual team board that has all the information needed to facilitate the conversation.  How was yesterday’s performance, did we hit the desired results, if not - why not? The agenda should flow in pretty much the same as the information on the Visual Board.  The role of leadership is to make sure that the information is available and accessible for each meeting.

The natural instinct for these meetings is that the team leader / manager leads them.  In my experience, I always encourage leadership to be in attendance but not to lead.  Otherwise it tends to result in a telling session.  Where team members stand back and wait to be told what is happening and what they should be doing.  This is 100% not the case.  The objective should be about collaboration.  Lean and continuous improvement is a team sport,  It cannot happen by leaders giving out directions and instructions on a daily basis.  The is a command and control environment that doesn’t help individuals to take leadership and responsibility in their work.  So it should be a fun and interactive activity - this is where it becomes a bit of an art form to make sure this happens.

This picture of nirvana doesn’t always happen - we are humans after all.  Which is another reason why leadership should take this opportunity to stand back and support the process.  It gives them an opportunity to watch and observe team members.  Who looks like they are not on their game today, maybe an opportunity to follow up once the meeting is over.  Checking in with the human side of the team. This is near impossible if you are up front leading the conversation.

Why daily?  Simply because it allows the business to keep track of all the moving parts of the business, enable positive and proactive communication and identify problems before they become a big issue.  A lot can happen if the meetings are only held once a week.  The value diminishes to the point where they gradually fade away to history.

A significant reason why the ideal scenario is all about consistency.  It creates a discipline for every team member to turn up (on time if they are used to start the day), come prepared and organised and have performance based conversations.  It is so important - mission critical really that the leadership needs to use this time and structure to show up and facilitate, coach the team about continuous improvement and problem solving.  

If there is an issue with a specific job, quality or late order etc, by identifying it early (i.e. daily) the team can problem solve and plan to implement countermeasures. Occasionally a problem or issue requires further deep diving.  This should not occur in the stand up meeting. Alternatively use an area on the team board for a “Parking Lot”.  This is where you can acknowledge the issue, identify who might be involved and set a timeframe for feedback or updates.  This way you can control the need for quick conversations while respecting the need for people to have longer conversations - but not at the expense of everyone’s time.

This is where the stand up meeting is more of an art form.  It takes a bit of judgement based on experience to know when important conversations need to be acknowledged and ‘taken off line’ or quickly resolved in the allocated time.

In short, this time should be used to effectively communicate with teams every day, a chance to debrief what is going well and what isn’t.  It is about setting a game plan everyday, working out what is achievable and what isn’t. The stand up meeting is also central to reinforcing the need for continuous improvement, enabling teams and individuals to put aside time to improve their jobs.

All of this is absolutely achievable without daily start up meetings, but it just takes longer and is so much harder without them.  The teams that I have worked with who have implemented this tool have made more progress faster than companies who feel it is a waste of time. In the big picture, it saves more time, enables more consistency with communication and solves problems faster.

That can’t be a bad thing right?


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