The Practical Guide to Holding a Lean Daily Stand-Up Meeting
3 tips to make your meetings lean and effective
3 tips to make your meetings lean and effective
Great meetings can create competitive advantage but most remain a sore spot for many. There may be a solution.
We’ve all been stuck in a bad meeting. You arrive on time only to have the meeting start 15 minutes late. One of the key people needed for the decision is not present. The discussion tracks is not in line with the set agenda. You get stuck in a lengthy discussion of how, when, who, why, which, and should we do this or that instead? Soon you realize it’s a complete waste of time.
These are just a start. Take a forensic look at your last meeting and ask yourself whether you experience those scenarios as well. If the answer is yes, it reveals a fact — it’s time to make your meetings lean.
The good news is, I’ve learned the rules to run an effective meeting. These tips and strategies can work for anyone, regardless of the job role you have and the organization you’re in. I’ve found that it’s possible to change the way your team approaches meetings. In the rest of this article, I will describe the three biggest problems and provide practical guidance on how to approach them with a lean solution strategy. You will learn some of the best practices for starting your next meeting.
Introducing the Lean Concept
Lean management is a concept derived from the Toyota Production System, established around 70 years ago. It’s a concept that has been widely adopted across various industries and you can apply it to how you run your meetings.
The goal of becoming lean is to add value by eliminating everything that doesn’t. The improvement of workplace standards and team performance is a daily activity that should be done by the teams closest to the work.
Daily scrum or daily stand-ups help create a positive feedback loop when properly managed. The team will develop daily routines to promote inspection, adaptations, and transparency of work, minimizing the impact of unforeseen events on day-to-day activity.
The lean method relies on the three Ps
- Purpose. The purpose of lean management is to satisfy the needs and deliver value to customers.
- Process. Each process should be valuable, purposeful, and intentional. It should eliminate waste or reduce the occurrence of non-value-added actions that consume resources.
- People. Everyone should be actively involved and thinking of continuous improvement initiatives.
This is why the two main pillars of the lean methodology are:
- Respect for people.
- Continuous improvement.
So how do you have a lean meeting? To be lean, a meeting must have minimal, and preferably no, non-value-adding work.
The Problem and Lean Solution
Over the years I’ve spent working, I’ve proved that meetings can be a major waste of time when not properly managed. This results in losses in productivity, collaboration, and team morale. As noticed, there are three main contributing factors to meeting ineffectiveness: frequency, length, and lack of productivity.
Most meetings are not scheduled. As a result, they are often too frequent or too infrequent. Some people might hold several short meetings over the course of the day, eating up individual time for work. Others call meetings only when things have already piled up.
Every minute spent in a meeting eats into time for both individual and group work. Both are essential for the creativity and efficiency that affect team and project velocity.
Finding the right frequency for you and your team is key to sustain trust and engagement. This increases transparency and gives you the room you need to inspect and adapt.
Lean Solution: Schedule the stand-up meeting for a recurring time and place every day.
What is important is having all the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner — not in spurts.
-Mr. Cho, president of Toyota, quoted in the preface to The Toyota Way
Lean requires constant attention and a commitment to improving every day — an improvement that everyone is part of and practices every day, of every week, of every month, of every year. It’s a never-ending effort.
It’s best to have a regularly scheduled meeting time and a dedicated room that’s already set up so whenever you do meet, your team is able to plan around it. That makes it easier to become part of a routine and less likely that it will be forgotten or delayed.
It is important to note that the frequency and volume of meetings should not interrupt the workflow. Meetings should not take time away from staff for their critical individual tasks.
Most meetings are poorly timed. Some are too short and very little discussion occurs, while others are too long and they eat into time for individual work. Usually, this forces people to steal from their personal time to get the work done. But this practice can lead to burnout and high turnover.
As a result, both group and individual and productivity are weakened because meetings are inefficient.
Lean Solution: Keep it within 15 minutes time-boxed.
An important aspect of the lean operation is ensuring work in progress does not pile up. The ideal is to process small lots, often a single piece, at high frequency in a just-in-time fashion. Limiting work in progress reduces multitasking and distractions, keeping the team focused on one thing at a time and improving overall productivity.
The good news is that with a small investment in time every day, you can dramatically improve the results of your meetings. Stand-up meetings should last no longer than 15 minutes.
As described in Scrum Guide, the Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours. The development team inspects the progress toward the sprint goal — how near are they to completing the work in the sprint backlog? The daily scrum meeting is not an issue resolution or problem-solving meeting. Issues that are raised are taken offline and immediately dealt with by the relevant subgroup.
An important aspect of running effective meetings is respecting everyone's time. Start the meeting on time and finish on time — respect for individuals and group time for work is essential.
You can use the same strategy in holding your daily scrum. Keep your meetings short, but higher frequency — small, frequent, daily improvements.
Lack of productivity
Most meetings are badly run. Some organizations have relatively few meetings but ramble on with no clear purpose. When new issues are raised, the next steps are often left unclear, leading to more sidebar conversations. People wander off the topic and you never seem to get to the point. You leave wondering why you were even present.
Lean Solution: Create and then stick to an agenda.
As stated in the Scrum Guide, the structure of the meeting can be conducted in different ways if it focuses on progress toward the sprint goal. Some development teams will use questions, some will be discussion-based. Most stand-ups consist of each team member sharing three key pieces of information:
- What did I do yesterday that helped the development team meet the sprint goal?
- What will I do today to help the development team meet the sprint goal?
- Is there anything preventing me or the development team from meeting the sprint goal?
If there’s a need for a detailed discussion, the team members often meet immediately after the daily scrum. The purpose of this meeting is to keep the project flowing smoothly!
Having a clear and effective agenda supports the development of a lean culture. It respects the participants’ time and the value they add to the subject matter. It helps to move the work forward by aligning participants with objective outcomes.
The lean transformation can help you improve the way your meeting runs. A lean daily scrum is a mindset and a practice, not just an event. It’s an opportunity for the entire team to get in sync with everyone’s individual progress against the sprint goal.
Keeping these meetings effective is not always an easy task, but in the end, better meetings, and better working lives, are the result.
This article was originally published on Medium.