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How to Run Daily Standup Meetings

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Episode Description

How do you catch issues before they blow up, keep from building silos between different departments, and even lower the amount of emails you receive in a day? The daily standup meeting. Jim and Margot continue their series on meetings and explain how to not let these meetings go ANY longer than 10 minutes—because if it does, you're not doing it right!

What you’ll learn:

  • Are daily meetings really worth it? [00:47]
  • How to do daily standup meetings well [04:29]
  • Challenges encountered with daily standup meetings and how to overcome them [05:47]
  • The purpose of daily meetings in the big picture [12:37]


JIM (00:02): Welcome to The OrgHealth Podcast: conversations about organizational health. I'm Jim Brown.

MARGOT (00:10): And I'm Margot Thompson. We're consultants and coaches to leaders who are creating healthy organizations.

JIM (00:15): We talk about leading at the executive level, not just the key points, the highlights. We like to go deeper.

MARGOT (00:22): Under the surface. We like to talk about what isn't obvious.

JIM (00:26): And maybe what isn't comfortable!

MARGOT (00:27): Right! And we come at these things with very different viewpoints: easy, because Jim and I are very, very different from each other.

JIM (00:35): That's true. But the good news is we've worked together long enough that we see our differences as strengths.

MARGOT (00:41): In fact, they actually allow us to create more health in our team and the teams that we help. And we're going to do some of that right now.

JIM (00:47): This week we're going to talk about daily standup meetings. We're going to explore why we do them. We're going to talk about how to make them work. We're going to talk about what goes wrong with them. And the truth is that the concept of having meetings every day actually rubs some people the wrong way. What are some of the things that people say about this, Margot?

MARGOT (01:20): So what I hear most often from teams is: the same people come to this meeting every single day. They all give the top three things that they're doing that day. And that's their job description basically. And so they do the same three things every day. Why do I have to go to that meeting to hear what, that Bob is doing one, two, three things, and it's the same every single day? What do you think about that, Jim?

JIM (01:43): Well, I think let's come back to why we're doing these meetings anyways. We want everyone to be in the loop together. There's some thing that we're trying to make happen in the company and we're all responsible to make it happen. Let's be on the same page. We also want to be understanding, and connected enough to each other. So the comment that you made that, well that's, these three things, that's his job description. And it's almost like we're bored because we know his job description. The truth is they probably didn't before he kept saying the same three things. I'm not saying he should only say the same three things, but already there was some value. I think the problem is that there isn't enough visibility of the payoff to the people from these messages. And so let's talk about what the pay off can look like. Remember, we're not trying to get the conversation to come up with a solution. We're trying to expose the problem and identify who around the table—not even table because they're standing up—who around the team should have the continued conversation with me because I've got a problem. And great, Frank mentions, "Oh, I've had something like that. Why don't we talk right after this meeting?" The whole team needs to hear next week what I got from my conversation with Frank and how that helped me overcome the problem. See what I'm getting at?

MARGOT (03:18): I do. And conversely to what I just said, I think that there is no leader out there who hasn't had something happen suddenly and been shocked by it because they didn't know that there was a problem in that area. So one of the beauties of a daily standup is that all the issues are—the important issues are on the table every day and you know them and you see them. It won't go 24 hours without you knowing that there's something happening that's not good in any given area.

JIM (03:49): Right, right. So you don't get blindsided. Absolutely. So then there's, then the, another payoff is that when you've got that kind of all on the same page start to every day, it actually reduces the email inquiries that start to get copied to everyone on the team. And we had a team start this who... I got an email back from the team leader saying within a week her email reduced by 25 messages per day!

MARGOT (04:22): Right. Hooray!

JIM (04:23): Because of the meetings and the clarity that they got from those meetings.

MARGOT (04:27): And who wouldn't love that?

JIM (04:29): Right. Okay, let's, let's get into the meat of how the daily stand up meeting works. It's not long, so this is not going to be a long conversation. Let's just walk through the pieces.

MARGOT (04:43): So team members get together and they're standing up and it's about five minutes. Every single morning, they report on the important activities of that day or any challenges or roadblocks that they're facing. Just the high points.

JIM (04:56): Right. They're just bullet points and let's underscore: it's five minutes. They stand up, as in, we don't even take time to sit down around the table. You just stand up in a circle and you start into it.

MARGOT (05:07): That's it. Five minutes standing up. That's it.

JIM (05:11): Bang.

MARGOT (05:12): I don't want us to miss how important it is to think about what this does for the leadership team on a different level. We talk a lot about cohesiveness of a team and this allows everybody on the leadership team to actually hear what the other person is saying and that develops a real bond between people. Having somebody listen to what's going on in your day and knowing what's going on in another person's day and where are the implications of connection and how that affects each other's areas of responsibility... And then they can see how they can collaborate better together.

JIM (05:47): Okay. Yeah, that's very important. The problem is that we encounter challenges. So let's, let's be open about what some of those challenges are.

MARGOT (05:57): So I think one of the things that happens a lot on teams is that when they're coming to this daily standup meeting that's only supposed to be a few minutes, people are going off on bunny trails, on their own agendas and the implications that they think are very, very important. But that holds it up for everybody on the team. And people are very frustrated because a 10 minute—or a five minute, hopefully—meeting turns into 15, 20, even half an hour.

JIM (06:28): [laughing] So, um, I think we should be candid with, uh, with our listeners that, uh, we've, we've had to walk through some of these very struggles ourselves with our own team. So, um, yeah! And you are especially introverted. So how do you show up at the daily meeting?

MARGOT (06:48): So one of my issues was that I started earlier than most people, and so I was already heads down in work that mattered to me before the meeting was even supposed to take place. So first of all, it felt like a bit of an imposition, but I would come with my three points and I would say boom, boom, boom, here are the three things I'm doing today and the rest of my time would be for the rest of the team.

JIM (07:12): Right. Very succinct, very selfless. You are not going to use up any of the team's time. And let's be, let's, let's push at this a little bit, Margot, and sometimes that would be just coldly factual, but it didn't actually open the door to, "here's what I might need some help with" or... There, there was no invitation. It was really just information. I'm not saying that there's always a need, but how would you handle it if there was a need? If you really did have a roadblock and you're looking for some help?

MARGOT (07:51): I would have asked for it. If I needed help, I would ask for it.

JIM (07:53): Okay! That's crucial. And I think that some people don't for other reasons. This is not something you suffer from. But sometimes around a leadership team we don't want to ask for help because it makes it look like we're weak, not good enough to do our job. So it's funny, there's like this double, um, two sides of the, of the road, right? On one side it's very factual and not an invitation on the other side it's verbose and it takes them three minutes to figure out what their three points are.

MARGOT (08:29): Or more.

JIM (08:29): Yeah. [chuckles]

MARGOT (08:31): And also some people don't come prepared to a meeting like that. They are sort of thinking on the fly and just searching back into their mind. And they first come up with their first two points that are important and then they think, oh no, there was something more important than that. And then they start talking about that and then another thing comes up and they start talking about that, and it just...

JIM (08:49): So, so let's talk about how do we solve that problem? Because it... One, if we stopped the meeting at the time when the meeting should end—10 minutes at the very most—then some people wouldn't have even talked.

MARGOT (09:05): Exactly.

JIM (09:05): And that doesn't feel very good. So the tendency is, well, let's take a little longer and we'll hear from Burt and Sally and Andrew. Now it's not a 10 minute meeting. So, how might we handle the verbose over-contributor?

MARGOT (09:23): Well, I think one thing that is fairly normal is that people who are more likely to do more talking are also more quick to volunteer to go first.

JIM (09:33): [laughing] Yeah. They don't know what they're going to say, but boy, can they start saying something!

MARGOT (09:37): Just because they're the, they're the thinker and processor simultaneously types.

JIM (09:42): Yeah.

MARGOT (09:42): And so they're also the ones who are most likely to take the longest length of time.

JIM (09:47): Uh huh. [laughs] What do you think about there being kind of a... a one minute beep? You can't use more than one minute. It doesn't matter what your life crisis is and you're done.

MARGOT (10:02): I think that with the right positioning, that would make people laugh and actually think that the meeting was more fun, that they've got to get their stuff out within one minute and then BEEP! Okay, you're done. Next person.

JIM (10:16): I agree! I think that fun can be a part of it. It's kind of like and if, if Burt is always cut off before he finishes that, then people are laughing before the beeper even goes! They know what's going to happen!

MARGOT (10:30): Exactly! They're all anticipating the beep. [laughing]

JIM (10:36): Yeah! [imitates countdown and final BEEP] But I think that holding to that is actually a good approach to, one, send the message, Burt, you got to get this crisper or you're not doing what you're being asked to do for this meeting to work well.

MARGOT (10:49): I like that suggestion much better than a hard cutoff without limiting what each person has to say. Because I, I really believe that several people will not have been able to have the opportunity, and the people who were speaking more won't know the implications or the connections that they should have known about the remaining people's...

JIM (11:10): Yeah.

MARGOT (11:10): Pieces.

JIM (11:11): Right. But one way or another, you have to end these meetings in 10 minutes or people are going to start resenting the meetings. It was hard enough for you, your rhythm was an earlier start. So this was a, a break of momentum for you. It was the start of most other people's day. So it was an easy kind of slow ramp up, so to speak for them. If it wasn't 10 minutes and it turned into 25 minutes, now it's devastating.

MARGOT (11:42): Well, in a busy environment, it doesn't even matter whether you started early or late. If you're expected to give up a half hour out of your day, then what are you doing to make that up? If your workload is enough to fill your day, then somewhere you're having to find that half hour. Do you work through your lunch? Do you stay late? Do you take work home? So people do end up having to, or feeling like they're going to resent that a little bit.

JIM (12:04): I agree. I agree. It's rare, like, we would encourage none of these teams to be over 10 in number. So if you limit each person to a minute, you can get through all ten. Yeah, we have to remember that the objective isn't to air a potential roadblock and solve it as a team. It's to air a potential roadblock and identify who on the team should have an on, like a continued conversation with me to help me with my roadblock. The meeting's over and Andrew steps towards me and we just talk about this for a few more minutes, or we agree that we're going to get together at two o'clock and talk about this. Something like that. It's not, it's not a team solution. It's a team discovery of whether some solution needs to be found.

MARGOT (12:58): Right. Exactly! It's not to solve the situation. If it's something that needs to be looked at deeply, you can take it offline or it can move to the tactical meeting.

JIM (13:08): Right.

MARGOT (13:10): So we talked about the monthly strategic meeting and the daily standup meeting and the last meeting we're going to be talking about is the weekly tactical meeting. And that's next week.

JIM (13:19): And, and the weekly tactical meeting I would suggest is the meeting that's going to make the biggest difference of all. So you're gonna want to hear what we have to talk about on that one. Okay! We want you to go out and try what we've talked about today on your own leadership team.

MARGOT (13:39): You can ask us questions or download notes from this episode at www.orghealth.coach. We'd love for you to join us next Thursday on The OrgHealth Podcast.

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