All Hail the Stand-Up Meeting!

(Photo: petecocoon)

I’m so pleased to see that stand-up meetings are gaining ground (or at least exposure, in the Wall Street Journal). I am on the record as someone who dislikes meetings in general; I also work much of the day standing up (at a great adjustable desk that Ikea unfortunately no longer makes).

As Rachel Silverman writes:

Stand-up meetings are part of a fast-moving tech culture in which sitting has become synonymous with sloth. The object is to eliminate long-winded confabs where participants pontificate, play Angry Birds on their cellphones or tune out. …

Holding meetings standing up isn’t new. Some military leaders did it during World War I, according to Allen Bluedorn, a business professor at the University of Missouri. A number of companies have adopted stand-up meetings over the years. Mr. Bluedorn did a study back in 1998 that found that standing meetings were about a third shorter than sitting meetings and the quality of decision-making was about the same.

The current wave of stand-up meeting is being fueled by the growing use of “Agile,” an approach to software development, crystallized in a manifesto published by 17 software professionals in 2001. The method calls for compressing development projects into short pieces. It also involves daily stand-up meetings where participants are supposed to quickly update their peers with three things: What they have done since yesterday’s meeting; what they are doing today; and any obstacles that stand in the way of getting work done.

Tyler Cowen also advocates stand-up meetings, and has other tips.

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  1. Lauren says:

    I really thought this post was interesting and unique, but at the same time extremely relevant and profound. Before reading this post, I had never really considered the idea of stand-up meetings seriously. I guess it just didn’t seem practical to me. Why stand when you can sit? But, then I got to thinking and I thought about the summer when I worked as a waitress. Our pre-shift meetings always required us to stand. And these meetings were very efficient. The managers briefly talked about things that we, as a team, were doing successfully, and they also brought up things that we needed to do better. They gave us updates and reminders. Then, we were allowed to discuss any issues that we felt needed to be addressed. All in all, the meetings were short and to the point. A lot was accomplished and it was done so in a quick manner, usually about 5-7 minutes. There is no time for sitting around in the restaurant industry, unless of course, you are the guest.

    I think that stand-up meetings are definately beneficial to an organization. Standing keeps the attendees listening and engaged. Also, the group is more focused on the meeting and the discussion as they have no distractions of a table. Finaaly, stand-up meetings require less resources, for example chairs and tables are unnecessary.

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  2. Jeff says:

    I love stand up meetings, but I’m concerned at the increase in popularity of them to magically solve the problem of bad meetings. As one person mentions above, certain meetings would never make sense to be stand up meetings. So how do we improve those meetings?

    I believe the solution to the root cause gets back to planning properly. Do you actually NEED a meeting? Are the right people being invited (e.g. don’t invite the whole company)? Did the organizer take the time to create an agenda BEFORE the meeting? Start doing those things right and I promise you’ll find yourself getting more out of your meetings.

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  3. Jonahan says:

    I made the switch to a stand-up desk and have no regrets – it’s awesome! I’m the 1st one in my workplace though and hopefully we get more and more people to join the standing revolution. You’ve gotta try it!

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  4. Revino says:

    Hi Stephen. Thanks for this nice article. We figured out that standup meetings are great but needed improvement (they took a lot of time, de-focussed our colleagues and interrupted their workflows). Because of this we developed a SaaS tool to ʺautomateʺ the daily standup meetings – with just a single email. If you like to take a look: Best, Revino

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