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A Simple Tool to Keep Your Daily Stand-Up Meeting on Track

Posted by Christen Barbercheck on

There are good daily stand-up meetings and bad daily stand-up meetings. A good one helps everyone stay focused and productive while building a greater sense of team. The bad ones mimic the worst stereotypes about corporate meetings–long, unfocused and de-motivating.

If your stand-ups sometimes remind you of Michael Scott from The Office, we have a simple tool and a few tips to help you get them back on track. All you need to get started is the Time Timer PLUS® 20 Minute and a few new rules.

What’s a daily stand-up?

The daily stand-up meeting started out as an agile software development practice, but it’s spread far beyond tech companies. It’s a good tool for any team that wants to move faster and smarter.

The idea is simple. Project teams stand up and gather at the same time each morning. Then each person answers three questions:

 -What did you accomplish yesterday?

-What are you going to get done today?

-Is anything holding you back?

 This typical daily stand-up meeting agenda adds accountability and intention to each person’s work day. The focus is on making valuable contributions to the team and project each day. It’s also a way to promote transparency by surfacing road blocks and working to mitigate them.

The New Daily Stand-up Meeting Rules
Unfortunately, it’s easy for the simple stand-up to go awry. People share too many details. Interrupt each other. Or try to turn this daily ritual into an epic planning meeting. Keeping this standing meeting simple, powerful and useful requires discipline and a few new rules.

  1. Set a strict overall time limit for the meeting. We recommend 20 minutes for a total meeting time, but you should celebrate if you finish early (vs. trying to fill every minute). To stay accountable, our Time Timer PLUS® 20 Minute gives your group a visual cue that time is slipping away. It’s also small and portable, so one team member can hold it up or set it on a nearby desk. Plus, a slew of tech folks endorse Time Timer for better meetings, including Jake Knapp, who spent a decade at Google and Google Ventures.
  1. Start and end on time; no matter what. Make it a practice to start the 20-minute timer when the meeting is supposed to start—even if everyone isn’t present. This puts the onus on individual team members to show up on time.

    Take the same approach to ending the meeting: Stop the discussion as soon as time ends. These hard starts and stops help your team build the muscles they need to be efficient, to-the-point and respectful of each other’s time.
  1. Give each speaker a time limit. Keeping a daily stand-up short requires an effective way to share time among your team members. Try giving each person a 1- or 2-minute time limit to answer the three key questions. This pre-determined limit adds focus and urgency.

    Use the Time Timer PLUS® 20 Minute as a visual guide for each person, so they don’t lose track of time. If someone goes over, agree on a short, polite way to call time. This might be “thank you, Jeff” or simply saying “time.”

  2. Save time for a brief discussion of any follow-ups. Set aside the last 3-to-5 minutes of the meeting to plan for any needed follow-ups. These are short and sweet communications, and often, offers of help.

    For instance, “Mike, I’d like to talk to you about your challenges with Sharepoint. I had a similar problem last month.” Or, “Janet, I think your work overlaps with mine and there might be a way for us to collaborate.” Then leave it to individual team members to continue those discussions outside the stand-up.

Whether you’re brand new to daily stand-ups or they’re a fixture in your work life, we believe our visual timer—and these few rules—will help you get more out of your meetings in less time.


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