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Standups should generally be no more than 15 minutes. Fifteen-point-zero minutes. If you schedule your meeting to start at 9:00, it starts at the stroke of 9:00. Not 9:01. Be on time! The meeting ends at 9:15. Not 9:16.
It is everyone's job to keep the meeting to a strict time limit. Meetings that drag on getting a bad reputation as time-wasters. Strictly adhering to the time of the meeting also sets an expectation for the meetings for the rest of the day. Meetings are expected to start and stop on time. This timeliness also shows that a default length of 30 minutes is too long. It reinforces that the team can have short meetings that are both focused and effective.
Having a mixed bag of teams show up to the Standup is not helpful. Subgroups will form and want to chat while others are giving status. Folks may be inclined to ask questions that are more of a distraction than informative.
If you are a leader, you may attend more than one Standup, but most people should attend a single, focused meeting for their primary team. Remember that the goal here is to improve communication and performance.
The meeting is for 15 minutes. We established a short meeting, with a strict time limit expecting a two-pizza-team-sized group. For this to work, however, people must come prepared.
Take a few minutes before the meeting to plan what you want to say. It only takes a few notes written down to help you keep to your points and not feel obligated to fill the silence with rambling.
A corollary to this point is to let people talk. Don't interrupt people when they are giving status. (Good meeting practice at Hellebore gives everyone at least two minutes to make a point without interruption in any meeting.)
There are three topics that everyone should cover, in this order: Status, Plans, and Friction.
Status on what happened the day before should be given to provide context for what is planned for the current day.
Once the status is given, plans for the current workday should be stated. These plans for the day are provided so that the team can discover if any other interactions need to happen and to deconflict other's work.
Finally, report on friction points. Friction refers to impediments, blockers, or other things that are getting in their way from doing their job as effectively as they would like. Reporting on Friction allows others to help solve these problems, be aware of emergent issues, and anticipate other work that may be required for the day.
Encourage everyone to have the right attitude, good humor, and to be ready to help their team be successful. The Standup should be a positive meeting and reflect your company's culture. Encourage everyone to stay positive and professional.
Begin the meeting with a restatement of the purpose, focus, and timeline. The scope of discussion is really about the next 24 hours, not the next 24 months.
Keep the range of the conversations relevant to what is going to happen that day. If folks start rambling, it's acceptable to ask them to move a conversation to a sidebar. This only takes a few seconds and helps keep the meeting on track, reminding people of just how focused and tactical everyone is expected to be.
Small, efficient teams will get to the point where staying inside of a fifteen-minute window for the Standup is easy. The team will show up well prepared, engaged, stick to the points, and be ready to press on with the day.
It only takes one minute to help the team grow. Expand the scope of the Standup to provide a bit of wisdom, insight, humor, and individualism in the day. Build up the team by having one team member give a theme for the week. For example, someone may choose to start or end the meeting with a new XKCD comic, an obscure piece of trivia from their hobby, or a technical tip that has helped them with their job over the years.
Chief Executive Officer
CEO, Hellebore Consulting Group. John has over 20 years of experience in building software for DoD organizations, leading organizational change, and building strong cultures.