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Are Stand-Up Meetings More Productive?


The stand-up desk has received a lot of attention in the last few years for its health benefits of not sitting all day. As some are fond of saying, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Using that logic, it makes sense then that sit-down meetings are also bad things, too.

That could be behind the trend for stand-up meetings. They are an interesting concept worth exploring because they could promote more productivity.

There are apparently rules for stand-up meetings. Lets look at those before getting into the health advantages. Among the rules:

  • 15 minutes or less
  • No pen and paper to record
  • No electronics of any kind
  • Team stands in a circle
  • Stick to three agenda items
  • Start and End on time

This particular blog post that outlined the rules was focusing on a team’s daily stand-up meeting. That frequency may not be necessary for you but the rules should be if you adapt this style of meeting.

The first and last rules make the most sense: start on time, meet for 15 minutes (or less) and end on time. People standing for longer just become uncomfortable and unfocused after a while. Plus, if you stick to three agenda items, there should be no reason to meet for more than 15 minutes.

I’m not as sold on the concept of no pen and paper. Maybe it’s because I’m a journalist but I think it makes sense to take notes at any meeting. It saves a lot of headaches down the road when notes are taken.

No electronics of any kind should just be the rule for any meeting. Especially meetings that last only 15 minutes. There is no one who can’t be untethered for 15 minutes.

The concept of a circle also makes sense because it forces people to look at each other. That makes for effective communication when you are face to face. Plus, it stops people from sneaking looks at their smart phones. You’re immediately busted.

OK, so lets look at the advantages. Their first advantage? Stand-up meetings tend to be shorter just because people don’t like standing. Of course, you may not want to hold a meeting with a bunch of people with stand-up desks because they’re used to standing.

Saverio Losito, the author of the blog post cited above, says it’s important to keep stand-up meetings interesting. He suggests an element of intrigue for the meetings. Maybe start them off by projecting an image that is interesting and related to the topic. That’s an especially effective technique if your stand-up meeting takes place first thing in the morning or right after lunch.

By the way, it’s important everybody stands for the meeting. They won’t work if one person is sitting and another is leaning against the wall. If you have to accommodate people who can’t stand – for whatever reason – than a stand-up meeting is not right for you. Allowing people to sit only directs focus to the people sitting, which is not fair to them.

A good tip that Losito makes is to evaluate your stand-up meetings after a couple tries. See what works and what doesn’t. Expect some trial and error, he advises.

Stand-up meetings should also be fun – after all stand-up comics are funny. So why not stand-up meetings? Losito suggests, “For example, some companies will toss around a ball or rubber chicken to determine who gets to speak next. If someone is rambling on for too long, an employee could hold up stop sign (or some other visual aid) to indicate it is time to move on.” I like the idea of a stop sign for moving a meeting along.

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