Project meetings made short, sweet and productive.


The No-Frills Daily 'Stand-up'

This structure is appropriate when your meeting is made up of your team for a project or initiative that is underway (not one where you are kicking off an effort, or introducing a concept). Typically it's done daily, you can use the same format for a weekly meeting, though you'll want to extend the time limits outlined below.

MEETING TIME LIMIT: 15 minutes
Bonus points if you keep it under 10 minutes.  

Each team member is allotted about 90 seconds to summarize things in the format outlined below (see the "structure" section below.  Over 3 minutes constitutes "meeting foul" - I recommend arming the team with squirt guns to punish offenders.

DESIRED OUTCOMES:
The goal here is to keep everyone aligned during execution of a project plan or some other initiative.  It's a great way to prevent surprises and create a healthy pressure to get things done each day.  

WHAT IT IS:
This style is typically called a "daily stand-up" meeting.  You can find flavors in several project management methodologies, though its strength is that no Certified Methodology Guru-ship is required.  Anyone can get value immediately.  

MEETING FORMAT
This a simple "round-robin" format where you go around the room (or the call) letting each person give their update.  Maintain a strict time limit.  

The update consists only of answers to these questions as they relate to the person speaking: 

What was done? What's next? What's blocked?

Based on those answers, the team get's a sense whether, and where, other conversations or meetings need to happen.  Just make sure those happen after the stand-up or you can start to lose the value.

HOW TO KEEP UPDATES CRISP AND CONCISE

"I made a trip to the store" is a good summary; detailing the journey won't work in this format.

Everyone should limit answers to this scope:

  • #DONE - At a high level only, what did you accomplish since the last meeting? If you worked on a larger effort that has not reached an end point yet, bullet-point where you focused and/or what you learned. 
  • #NEXT - What are you going to do between now and the next update? 
  • #BLOCKED - Is something not working out, or producing issues that require unplanned input/help? Is someone late responding, or is the flux capacitor lacking adequate fuel for some reason?  Bullet point decisions, or inputs, you need that emerged or remained since the last meeting.  Especially raise anything that prevented last meeting's "#next" from converting to this meeting's "#done."  

Ideal times of day for the meeting and Standups-on-demand:

In short, I try to avoid peak prefrontal cortex time for stand-ups.  This is the part of our brain that enables us to operate "in the zone."  It is typically in peak state around 2 hours after we wake and burns through glucose for 2-3 hours before we've used up our very best mental capacity. 

For this reason, I love having data on demand first thing with any updates made at the end of the previous working day. (Surprise, surprise, ResultMaps gathers that data for me. You can read about or look at pictures/videos of it here).  For geographically dispersed teams, getting updates in this format helps us bridge/manipulate time. 

I still find myself in stand-up meetings, but they are shorter and not necessary for every team.  For teams where everyone is in the same place, doing a meeting first thing is ideal; get it done before the brain enters that peak state, even if the way to do that is to have people call in.  

When teams are across time zones, or when "first thing in the morning" isn't feasible as is frequently the case with creative or programming teams, I like a time between lunch and 3 pm.  This time is typically an energy trough, and it hardly takes your mental best to recite your "done/next/blocked."

FREE TEMPLATES AND RESULTMAPS PLUG:

ResultMaps automates this format by creating a personalized digest of top priorities at the beginning of each day.  It has a drag-and-drop communication tool to categorize any action items with #done, #next, and #blocked.  As always with ResultMaps, simply include these keywords in a comment or action item, and ResultMaps intelligently detects them and organizes appropriately. 

Finally, at the end of the day, ResultMaps sends out a summary, in stand-up style.  For anyone who's not made an update, it requests one with a link to the tool. 

All of that said, if you don't want to use ResultMaps, we suggest you use something - and put a Google Doc online here for this purpose.  Use it to achieve some of the above benefits, though you'll just have to manage much of it manually, and give up a few of the perks.

Either way, go crush it.