Better Meetings

Running Impactful Stand-Up Meetings with AI

When done well, stand-up meetings can be game-changers for your team. We’re all familiar with something else—the general status update meetings that drone on, making everyone wonder if it could’ve been an email. Unfortunately, this round robin style meeting where attendees take turns listing off their completed and soon-to-be-completed tasks is all too common. What if we said there was a more effective approach? 

The original intent of stand-up meetings, or daily scrum, was to create space for team members to broach challenges or setbacks. It's collaborative and concise, with a problem-solving atmosphere that supports agile workflows. So how do you establish an effective and efficient stand-up meeting for your team?

Keep reading—we're taking a closer look at everything you need to know about running stand-up meetings that actually move the needle for your company. 

What is a stand-up meeting?

At a stand-up meeting, the entire team or company is present. Each individual has a set amount of time to run through any project blockers. After someone finishes speaking, the meeting moves on to the next person. The meeting is fully wrapped after 30-60 minutes. 

Most stand-up meetings revolve around three questions:

  • What am I working on this week?
  • What did I complete last week?
  • What challenges are currently blocking me from continuing?

These meetings are short and sweet. They happen on a regular cadence, whether it's weekly or daily. They're opportunities for colleagues to check in and help each other solve problems. 

Stand-up meetings are different from status meetings. Instead of sharing updates, colleagues work to find creative solutions to blockers and keep moving projects forward. One of the most common mistakes teams make is just listing the tasks they've already completed or plan to complete. These are topics that can be addressed asynchronously. 

Aim to address topics that require more collaborative conversations—ones that invite unique insights and clever solutions that you won’t find through Slack conversations. The idea is to invoke teamwork to efficiently solve complex problems on a regular basis, thus removing potential setbacks and pushing the project forward. In summary, stand-up meetings should be collaborative spaces for teams to conduct rapid-fire problem solving.

History of the stand-up meeting

The first daily stand-up meeting happened in person and lasted only 15 minutes. Inspiration for the meeting came from an unlikely source. Let’s look at Jeff Sutherland’s account to get the full picture:

In the early 1990s, Sutherland showed his team of software developers a video of New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team as they prepared for a match. Before each game, the team performed the Maori warrior ceremony of the haka. This ceremony is a dance that haka warriors would do before going into battle. The energy the rugby team evoked was contagious. 

Sutherland and his scrum team considered how they could bring that same energy to their work. Their research surfaced a paper documenting a project called Quattro Pro. The paper outlined part of a software development team’s "secret sauce" to their magnificent efficiency: They met daily to discuss their performance and troubleshoot setbacks. 

This rapid-fire huddle focused the entire team around a single problem. They collectively solved roadblocks before they risked derailing the entire project. Sutherland took this idea and ran with it, making a few adjustments to the method along the way.

First, he shortened the meeting length from one hour to 15 minutes. This change pushed his team to think on their toes, rapidly discovering solutions to their workflow hiccups and project blockers. Next, he established three rules: 

One: The meeting happens at the same time every day, and the entire team had to be there. If team members were missing, there was a gap in the communication. 

Two: The meeting could not be more than 15 minutes. Everyone had to be concise and direct. It invited the quick problem-solving that is at the heart of an agile work environment. 

Three: Everyone had to participate. Each attendee would stand up during the meeting, prompting active listening and talking. Hence the name: daily stand-up. 

Sutherland witnessed a sharp increase in the efficiency and ingenuity of his team. This daily meeting was an experiment that paid off. So the stand-up meeting was born. 

Stand-up meetings and agile frameworks

The stand-up meeting works particularly well for agile workflows. An agile framework is a flexible workflow pattern. It guides organizations toward rapidly scaling through quick adjustments in planning, managing, and executing work based on new learnings. 

The daily scrum meeting is a favorite for agile teams. It’s an accelerated troubleshooting session where teams solve setbacks, allowing them to consistently hit sprint goals. It keeps the ball moving forward. 

A short meeting is also respectful of everyone’s time. Teams identify hurdles fast, so they solve problems as they arise. This methodology leaves no space for sitting on a problem until the last minute. Teams face challenges head-on and in a collaborative manner. Per Sutherland’s experience, and those of many teams since, it’s a system that works wonders for steady project management. 

6 tips for leading effective stand-up meetings

Schedule a time and stick to it

Stand-up meetings are most effective when held consistently. They can be daily or weekly—whatever works best for your team. Ideally, the meeting is held at the same time every day or week. Make sure it gets prioritized over other meetings. If a stand-up meeting is run effectively and everyone is engaged, it should address problems that would require separate meetings. A highly-optimized stand-up meeting saves everyone time.  

The key ingredients for a successful stand-up meeting are consistency and team commitment. Attendees must come prepared to troubleshoot. The baseline best practice for good stand-up meetings is ensuring everyone is on board. If executed well, teamwork and efficiency skyrocket. 

Share the agenda with everyone beforehand

Keep everyone aligned and maintain a short meeting by creating an agenda. Have meeting attendees add their stand-up questions or updates to a communal document. Share the meeting agenda with everyone beforehand. This gives people time to think over their colleague’s challenges so they come to the meeting in the right mental space. Pro tip for doing this effectively: create a meeting template. Doing so saves everyone time and mental energy in the long run. 

The benefits of an agenda are twofold: You're recording questions to document project growth for future reference and keeping the meeting on track.

Establish clear time blocks for each discussion point

Explain the structure to your team before kicking off the meeting. Each team member needs to keep their talking points brief. Prioritize topics that can’t be handled asynchronously or need collective troubleshooting. The exact length of the meeting will depend on the size of the team. 

As you kick off the meeting, remember to be patient. You’re asking everyone to get into a new habit of how they discuss topics. It might take a few meetings for the entire team to get into the flow of a stand-up. Be open to iterating as needed so you run a meeting that is most effective for your team. 

Choose one person to be the leader

Once the stand-up meeting has been scheduled, select one person who will be responsible for running it. Doing so simplifies the entire process, as this person keeps things on track. They guide the conversation and let speakers know when to move on or take a conversation elsewhere. A stand-up meeting moderator will also manage the meeting agenda. Ideally, they do so with a tool like Supernormal under their belt that streamlines note-keeping.

Clearly understand the purpose

Step one in kicking off your stand-up meeting is getting your entire team on the same page. Organizational alignment is key to running an effective meeting. Make sure your team knows how to properly use the meeting time so it’s effective and respectful for everyone. 

Teams should understand that the stand-up is more than just a status report. Invite real-time problem solving by encouraging everyone to share project impediments or general setbacks that impact their working day. Ask for regular feedback from the team to see how the meeting could be improved. 

Pause larger conversations for another time

Avoid side conversations. They run the risk of luring the meeting off track and uprooting the rapid-fire nature of stand-up meetings. You can mitigate this by working off a concise meeting agenda and designating a moderator. 

In the spirit of keeping your stand-up meeting short and snappy, only allow discussion for topics that have quick solutions. If a topic requires more in-depth analysis, put a temporary pin in it and resume the talk at a later time.

The benefits of effective stand-up meetings

Strengthen the team's alignment toward shared goals

The importance of clear communication among team members cannot be overstated. Err on the side of overcommunication. We’ve all felt the pains of projects that lack clear communication and alignment, but it’s simple: When everyone is on the same page, teams hit their goals, and projects move faster. 

A stand-up meeting is regular dedicated time for teams to align themselves and support each other. It’s space for a melding of minds. Individual contributors broach challenges and seek feedback from colleagues. This level of communication is even more important for distributed teams. Remote workers can feel more included when everyone is involved in the project management. 

Saves everyone time by having fewer meetings overall

Stand-up meetings function to both identify solutions and larger problems that need more troubleshooting. Because they’re short, team members have to prioritize what topics they bring to the meeting. When 37% of workers say they spend up to 12 hours per week in meetings, any time team members get back in their schedule is valuable. 

They force participants to get to the point and emphasize the importance of differentiating between topics that can be handled asynchronously and topics that would benefit from in-person discussion. Challenge your team to default to async communication. If asynchronous discussions won’t work, bring it to the stand-up.

Reduces setbacks

By this point, you know that stand-up meetings are supposed to address and reduce setbacks. They are space for an open dialogue about a project’s most significant challenges. Use a stand-up meeting to address potential hurdles before they become major setbacks. You’re preemptively problem solving to avoid derailing your project later on in its lifecycle. Team members’ challenges are put out in the open, so everyone can help find solutions. 

Increases transparency and collaboration

Transparency is at the heart of every project. After all, individual contributors need to know what they’re working toward to correctly orient their thinking about their work. 

Transparency is also key for employee satisfaction. They’ll feel they’re having a measurable impact when they know how their work supports the bigger picture. Lack of transparency creates silos. It runs the risk of decisions getting made in a vacuum. 

Stand-up meetings are an inherent place for collaboration. Team members enter the meeting in a problem-solving state of mind. They work together toward achieving ambitious goals. 

Measures project progress

Stand-up meetings provide a visible way for everyone to see how a project is moving along. Whether it’s one team of individual contributors supporting each other to resolve blockers or teams across the organization solving cross-functional problems, everyone is aware of project status. 

Teams that document the questions and solutions that arise in their stand-up meetings can also look back and learn from previous projects. They can identify areas where they should have taken a different approach and iterate to avoid those same setbacks in the future. 

Leveraging AI note-takers during stand-up meetings

Think of generative AI note-takers as your behind-the-scenes assistant during stand-up meetings. Just hosting a daily check-in meeting isn’t enough—you need a system and tool that streamlines the process. Efficiency is the name of the game during a stand-up meeting, and AI note-takers ensure the whole team can focus on solving problems rather than scribbling notes. 

Supernormal is the AI note-taker that helps you do your best work. After your stand-up, select the type of meeting and Supernormal will create meeting notes tailored to that call. For example, after a sales team stand-up meeting, you’d get meeting notes that highlight customer pain points, customer needs, and next steps—action items pertinent to the team and meeting style. Supernormal uses its sophisticated language recognition technology built on ChatGPT-4 to generate comprehensive meeting notes. 

It captures all your meeting notes in one place, so stay focused on moving the needle for the business. Let Supernormal handle the note-keeping while you focus on making strides for your team and company. 

Try Supernormal for free today to see for yourself how AI note-takers can help you run effective stand-up meetings. 

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