Stand-up meetings and dialogue – the road to efficient operations is paved with good conversations

By Matilde Egerup Kjærulff and Jacob Ørum, Klart

More and more organizations gather daily or weekly at stand-up meetings to talk about how things are going with the daily tasks. It can be Team Plans, Managment boards, Project boards - dear child has many names. The boards are a starting point for an important, continuous conversation - and you must cherish the conversation itself. Read why - you may be surprised - whether you are a stand-up meeting novice or experienced.

Stand-up meetings and dialogue about daily operations

As consultants, we have helped put more than 300 teams in public and private organisations, various industries and everyday life - digitally on Klartboard and of course also on whiteboard and Excel. These are stand-up meetings which today are present in all possible places in our organizations – for example in finance, law, HR, the executive secretariat, the supervisory unit, the call centre, administration, communications, the executive board – and in the library around the corner.

The boards used for stand-up meetings visualize e.g. the department's tasks, resources, projects, plans, goals and agreements. It is around these stand-up meeting that bosses, managers and employees meet and talk briefly about how daily life is connected and where they enter into agreements, so that the most important tasks are prioritized, planned and solved. It is thus stand-up meetings that stimulate dialogue about daily operations.

tavlemøder og dialog

Dialogue with energy, meaning and direction

In our view, the dialogue that takes place in front of the boards is valuable. If the dialogue is characterized by energy, meaning and direction. The good stand-up meeting with a relevant board design is undoubtedly a prerequisite for creating and facilitating conversations that are specific, present and related to your organization as a whole.

Focus on the everyday conversation

As part of our consultancy, we witness many conversations between bosses, managers and employees, which are loaded with frustrated cries à la: 'All tasks are urgent', 'We can't keep up', 'It's impossible to plan because the plan changes anyway all the time', 'My boss has no idea what I'm doing', 'I'm responsible for everything myself', 'It's the others who don't deliver', etc. The bosses and employees we work with want something other than an everyday life characterized by these conversations.

For a brief moment, let us turn to the literature to understand what conversations are and can be. The living British organizational theorist Ralph Stacey can explain why it is conducive to development and change in organizations to focus on conversations. Stacey's theoretical starting point is that the world is complex and that changes occur at an increasing rate. We can probably recognize that. What is interesting is that, for Stacey, organizations consist of complex responsive processes that can neither be controlled, managed nor planned.

In an interview Stacey says: "First of all, there are no organizations per se. After all, organizations only consist of the people who populate them. People who each have their own agendas and intentions, and who meet each other at crossroads. It creates a lot of patterns of human interaction and therefore unpredictable complexity, which at the same time drives organizations forward”.

So what do we do with stand-up meetings if we ultimately cannot manage, plan and control the complex processes? For Stacey – and for us – it is precisely the conversations at the stand-up meeting that we must use as an anchor when we navigate the complex processes.

The boards provides us with a visual overview and creates a mutual picture of what is and how it is going. The conversations thus become significantly more meaningful and can add direction as to a greater extent about: What tasks we as a team or department have. Which ones are important. Which aren't. How do we prioritize. How do we solve the tasks. How do we help each other. How are we organized around the tasks. What are the expectations from customers and business partners. What is happening around us. Etc.

This conversation is characterized by commitment, willingness to learn, development and community around the given tasks and goals. Stacey's perspective forces us to focus on the very ordinary existing everyday activities at work. Drop the eternal focus on all that we should do and instead reflect more on what we are actually do in everyday life – that in itself will create awareness, change and development.

4 reasons to cherish the conversation

Inspired by Stacey, here are the 4 most important reasons to cherish the conversation:

  • The stand up meeting is a platform for bosses and managers to influence the conversations and the focus he/she chooses to contribute to the organisation. This is where you, as a boss with a persistent push, can boost the responsive processes and thus influence the conversations that take place in the organization.
  • The conversations we have around stand-up meetings sharpen the focus on your operations and thus on what is important to customers, business partners, tasks and the organization. It is the everyday activities that we focus on - and this also contributes to better well-being.
  • It is, among other things, at the stand-up meeting, you create, invent and develop a language together with your employees. A language to speak together about the operations for which you are responsible as boss and manager. A language that is centered on how you prioritize, distribute, organize, etc. That language will in itself contribute to enabling new actions – it enables you to create learning and see new opportunities for improvements in operations.
  • Through these conversations, you equip your employees to navigate the complex, responsive processes that make up the organization - so that the important conversations spread like ripples in the water.
Tavlemøder og dialog

Much has been said and written about the effect of stand-up meetings in, among other things, the literature on i.a. LEAN. And it is a well-known discourse that stand-up meetings are a tool for streamlining, optimizing processes, etc. The purpose here is to emphasize that meaningful and directional conversations at the stand-up meetings are in themselves a significant result on the way to efficient operations.

The stand-up meeting is a stage - use it

The advice from here is thus that it is the conversation at the stand-up meetings that you, as a boss and manager, must cherish - this is where you careful can pick what you choose to focus on and what you choose to develop and drive your organization towards.

Perhaps you are already taking your stage at the stand-up meeting and sharpening your attention to what is important in everyday life – so that you leave your mark on the conversations, your relationships and your organization. If so, we hope that this gave you a perspective on what it is that you are already doing.

Good luck with the conversations ahead...

Do you have doubts about how to take the stage and create conversations that are characterized by energy, meaning and direction? A good start is to focus on your questions. Be careful and thoroughly prepare the engaging, relevant and relevant questions you will ask your employees in the various fields on stand-up meeting - and promise that you, as a boss, do not make the mistake of answering them yourself.

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