Three (simple) steps to good stand up meetings

The stand up meeting is, in all its simplicity, a meeting around a board

The special feature of stand up meetings is that the Klartboard, and what is written on it, becomes the focal point of the meeting. This means that the manager and team relate to what is written and use the board as a starting point for dialogue and action.

The classic stand up meeting is the physical meeting around a whiteboard, but today it happens far more often as a meeting around digital boards like Klartboard. Regardless of whether we are talking about Excel or one of the digital platforms. And the physical meeting - yes, especially after the Corona shutdowns in 2020-2022 has been replaced - or supplemented - by the virtual meeting. Or the hybrid meeting.

What is the purpose?

Firstly it is about creating adequate transparency. So we can easily see.

  • How are things going with our goals - our performance?
  • How are our tasks and projects going?
  • Are we pressed for resources?
  • Who can step in and help?
  • Etc

The boards must therefore give us the overview.

Secondly must we understand/translate/process what is written on the boards in the stand up meeting. And this is where the dialogue comes in. We must inquire into what we can see – the essential?

  • How is it going - do we need to adjust something?
  • What is the problem – and what can we do about it?
  • What was it that succeededand what can we learn from it?

The stand up meeting should therefore strengthen the common image of our operations. As a whole.

Thirdly must we take action in the stand up meeting. We need to make agreements about what we do about the problems we see. The actions can be, for example, adjusting deadlines, redistributing tasks, changing the status (no, we are not actually in the red, now that we have just turned it around...) - or simple agreements such as "The two of us will look at that later”.

The stand up meeting is therefore a simple and fairly effective decision-making process. Ideal for the series of micro-decisions that are always needed to make a team's day-to-day work together.

A lot can go wrong... if you don't do the following

As simple as it sounds, just as much can go wrong.

Fortunately, there are a lot of managers and employees who every day succeed in holding stand up meetings, which to that extent make a significant and positive difference in their work.

And since I, as a consultant, am allowed to regularly observe the stand up meetings to give feedback to managers and teams. Yes, I have gained an insight into the golden formula.

1) Design the boards to suit your team

Well of course...or...

I see many who have inherited the boards from the sister team - or who are stuck in a corporate model where everyone must have identical boards.

It doesn't work.

You must design the boards so that each team can recognize themselves in the reality the boards visualize. Regardless of whether the management focus is on goals, projects, tasks, resources, etc. - yes, what is shown on the boards must be:

  • Recognizable Can the team, whether it is the executive board or the operations team, recognize what they see on the boards. The board design ensures that we see the essentials. Do we understand that, for example, we are looking at projects. Do we understand what the boards are trying to tell us about these projects?
  • Relevant - Is what we can see on the boards important to us? Does it make a difference to what we have to accomplish until the next board meeting? Or for the coordination, follow-up, clarification, adjustment, etc. which is the purpose of our stand up meeting?
  • Appropriately detailed What and how much do we need to know in order to manage? If, for example, it is projects that we need to manage - do we simply need to know the title and status of the next milestone? Or should we also be able to see underlying tasks? Or the status divided by finances, time and quality? Or agreed corrective actions?

2) Let questions create flow and focus in the stand up meeting

I see quite a few stand uo meetings where it's as if everyone needs to be heard. Where all tasks and projects must be reviewed.

You must leave it at that. In each case as an invariable rule of the game **

Focus on what is interesting and what requires action. Or what is important to share knowledge about.

Well, how will we know if we don't ask everyone? This is where the board design comes in. What is not running, and thus requires action, should be marked with a signal. Typically a status color in yellow or red. What is interesting (but not a problem) may require more reading between the lines. For example, a development over time. Trends and patterns.

And the point is that you must ask questions at the stand up meeting. And let these drive the meeting forward. Alas:

"I see that the next milestone is in red (hence the problem). What does it take for us to go green?"

"We have now succeeded in achieving our goal for the third week in a row (thus the interesting part). What are we doing differently and better than before?”

As a leader (or facilitator), you create the desired focus by asking certain questions. Rather than asking participants to talk about their tasks or projects. A la: “And what about you Pernille...?", "And what about the HR project, Peter…?"

And the flow of the meeting is controlled by your questions. You set the pace. Rather than every employee having a say.

** If it is an independent purpose to hear everyone (and it can easily be), you as a manager can vary your questions. Do it situationally based on the same question as above: I see your week is set in yellow - what does it take for it to turn green? I see all your tasks are in green - is there any risk of them ending up in red? Your portfolio seems to be in good shape - is there room for new assignments?

3) Say the partial conclusions out loud and manifest the actions on the board

Does it come to nothing... do you not do anything about the KPI being in yellow - or that Jens clearly has too much to do?

You must - that is, take action when it is required. Otherwise, the whole point of everyone having to update the board disappears. That the team must spend time at the stand up meeting.

Therefore, make it a rule of thumb that you as a manager – and you as a team – always seek to round off any dialogue with a conclusion that contains an action.

  • So we agree that you, Jørgen, will take over Lise's task
  • So I would like you Matilde to speed up ….
  • Ok, I agree that I have to arrange a sparring session with...
  • Ok, I agree that we do nothing right now… (yes, putting off doing something is also an active action, as long as it is a conscious choice).

And manifest the conclusion as a change in the board. As we speak.

  • Move the assignment on the board so we can see that it now lives with Jørgen.
  • Change the tag on the task so we can see that it is now top priority
  • Note in the agreement field that Trine must agree on sparring
  • Note in the comments on the status that we are waiting for the time being, even though we are in yellow

The effect of always rounding off with a conclusion and letting this manifest itself on the board is great.

  • It creates dynamism – okay, there's something at stake here
  • It creates clarity - okay, that's what we do
  • It creates accountability – okay, we can actually do something
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