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Stand-up meetings: 5 reasons to kiss traditional meetings goodbye
Can you end meeting dread by having stand-up meetings? IT leaders say it's not as hard as you'd think - and delivers big benefits
4. Better accountability and workflow
Another perk of great stand-ups is the visualization of workflow – often in the form of post-it notes on a wall. Smart from Barclays Group makes the case that this naturally leads to more engagement as teams optimize for efficiency. It also makes them accountable to each other, not just the boss. Both are benefits leaders can and should support, he says.
“By having a stand-up and focusing on the work (not the workers), this supports the increase of flow, which requires the removal of impediments, which results in increased efficiency and faster learning,” says Smart. “For a leadership team to embrace this, it is role modeling desired behavior. In fact, the first team to adopt a stand-up and to visualize work should be the leadership team.”
Smart goes on: “Having a stand-up and talking about the work flowing from left to right across a board also increases engagement levels. It is no longer a dry 60-page deck with status updates and RAG (red, amber, green) status. It is more real time. There’s a focus on the desired outcomes (not on output or activity for the sake of activity). It enables a team, as a complex adaptive system within a complex adaptive system, to learn, reflect, and then adapt. Also, it lessens a traditional command-and-control leadership style. The update is to each other, not to the boss,” he emphasizes.
5. It’s easy to get started
If you are sold on the benefits of stand-ups but still don’t see how they can replace your traditional meetings, consider one CIO’s experience.
Fin Goulding, international CIO for Aviva, says, “From the minute I attended my first stand-up meeting, I was hooked – mainly from experiencing the great social interaction, the visualization of work, and the brevity of the event, which made it totally invigorating. I immediately thought: Why should we just contain this to software development?”
Goulding began using the concepts and techniques of standups within other contexts. For instance, “Rather than have formal monthly management meetings, I have a daily 15-minute leadership stand-up. It's brilliant because we can respond to the ‘now’ and not suffer from the artificial wait time caused by a meeting cadence. One can also limit the work in progress, so that the team doesn't get overloaded,” he says.
Getting started is simple, says Goulding. “A wall has columns labeled ‘To Do,’ ‘Doing,’ and ‘Done.’ Work items are written on post-it notes and each one has an owner identified. If a task is not getting done, then it gets a dot drawn on it until either it's completed or moved to the ‘Sin-bin,’” Goulding says, describing his team’s Kanban board approach. Over time, you can develop more sophisticated methods to segment tasks. You might group tasks related to tactical issues, strategic work, a people focus, or hot topics, he says.
Seeing other teams throughout the company start to copy the stand-up technique in their own departments is a sign that he’s onto something good, he says. Another positive sign: “The energy that is palpable in the office and the smiles on people's faces – those are rare in a traditional meeting,” he says.
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