Clever Endeavour Games works in a shared workspace called the GamePlay Space, here in Montreal. It's awesome for all sorts of reasons which I won't get to now, but one of the main ones is that we're surrounded by professional, experienced teams who really know their stuff.
One of the things I noticed more recently was that every morning, around the same time, every team would stand up and talk for a bit, and sit back down again, off to do their work. What was this strange ritual? Why stand when you can sit?
This, my friends, is known as a stand-up meeting. It's something that's practiced in agile management, and is intended to increase productivity of the meetings. Basically, the idea is that the standing position is less comfortable and meetings will have to be concluded quickly because of it. What also helps is that no one has their computer or task lists in front of them, so the meeting doesn't drag on and get lost digging through tiny tasks and low-level decisions.
How does it work?
Everyone seems to agree that the meeting should be focused around each attendee (assuming all attendees are working on relevant projects) answering a few questions:
These are questions that each team member will answer, but they don't answer to the scrum master. A scrum master in agile management is the person who leads daily meetings, and is generally a project manager. They use info received in the stand-up meeting to try to help remove the obstacles that prevent their team from advancing.
People in the meeting should all be talking equally to one another, even if the scrum master steers the conversation. This is supposed to be a casual meeting, not a massive meeting of hundreds of board members.
So what's the point?
- encourages communication (forces it, really) between the team that otherwise would not have been scheduled in
- allows the project manager to plan future meetings by knowing what's going well and what's going wrong
- allows for shorter, more efficient meetings
Things to avoid?
- talking about technical problems: find those problems and discuss how to address them (future meetings, etc.), don't dive into anything technical then and there
- making it a planning meeting: if the project manager needs to dole out new tasks, it should not be done in the stand-up, it should be done later
- recording meeting minutes: this should be quick and casual, there's no need for recording meeting minutes or taking notes
- micromanaging your team: just don't do it. Again, the meeting should be informal and should not feel like one person is telling the others what to do
Now, all this has been talked about in the context of scrum meetings for agile management. If you didn't understand four of the last five words in that sentence, no worries. I think that the stand-up meeting can be useful for any team aiming to have a quick, focused, informal meeting where they discuss some matters that are not technical.
Our team has learned about this and hasn't tested it enough to give you results, but the number of teams that are happy with it attest to the fact that it works well. I'll write another entry on this in a month or so, and I'll let you know how it is :)