Tools: The Power of the Personal Stand Up Meeting

A tool for accountability and support

It’s 6AM. I’m standing in my kitchen with a cup of coffee in one hand and a notebook flipped open on the counter in front of me.

Standing across the counter is my long time friend and collaboration Andrea (genius behind my back office redesign, kitchen remodel and acknowledged expert on creating flow).

“Ok, what d’ya got?”

This is our daily Stand Up.

We read off to each other what we accomplished the day before, what we plan to accomplish today and call out any influences that could block either of our efforts.

It's one of the tools we use to stay agile in our businesses and lives. Its more than accountability—it’s a way to partner on goal achievement and key to getting consistent results from a sprint.

Why do I do it? I can go it alone and have done so for years but working with another person on my goals keeps me honest and makes it real. Also it allows me to leverage the intelligence and resourcefulness of my team mates when I run into blockers I have a hard time resolving solo.

The term “Stand Up” comes from the tradition of standing during these meetings--it helps keep the meeting short and on point (sitting allows people to get comfortable and begin lengthy conversations on why they can’t do things).

Stand Ups aren't sessions to complain or get into any lengthy discussions. They are all about accountability and quick problem solving.

While it is nice to meet face to face you don’t necessarily have to in order to have a successful Stand Up. You can get the same benefit by phone or using a service like Skype or Google+ Hangouts.

Here is the format for a perfect Stand Up:

First—include people from your team who are just as committed to achieving their goals as you are. People who are luke warm will only bring down the energy of the meeting. Also, the group should be small (less than eight) so you can go through your items quickly and you keep everyone’s attention.

Second—Schedule your Stand Up in the morning at a time the whole group can meet consistently. Keep it short—no more than 15 minutes--if its only you and a couple others, this could be done in 5 minutes. Short is key to making it useful as well as no brainer to keep.

Three—Write out these things in advance and bring to the Stand Up.

  • What you did yesterday to further your goals—get acknowledgement for what you did get done.
  • What you plan to do today to further your goals—cement it in your mind by telling the people who support you.
  • What things could block you from doing what you plan to do—if you foresee a difficulty, put it out there so you can get help.

Everyone gets a minute or two to share their items in round robin format.

Listing blockers is particularly useful. If you shine a light on possible difficulties in advance, you are far more likely to be ready to deal with them than if you ignore them or wait until the last minute. Also, your team-mates can help you clear these blockers by lending support.

Over time you will see patterns in your planning as well as what issues come up consistently--this is important information!  If things keep falling off your list it might be a clue to plan less during certain period. Also, if certain activities remain undone on a consistent basis it’s probably time to find some other way to deal with those—farm those activities out or find a different approach that yields the result you want.

Also, don’t spend time going over everything you didn’t do. By keeping a written record of what you plan to do vs what gets done, you can do this analysis later. Keep the Stand Up focused on action.

When I created my list of actions for yesterday I failed to take into account how day light savings would affect my energy level (a blocker I failed to take into consideration). As a result I over booked my day and only got about 80% done.

No problem though! I dealt with this by moving some tasks to the next day and working only on the highest priority tasks (in this case, writing my blog post). 

I encourage you to experiment with your own Stand Up meetings—who do you know who would welcome the opportunity to get support and make progress while helping you achieve your dreams? 

ToolsSasha MobleyComment