18 Minutes Stand Up Meetings

Artikel in Linkin Pulse, juni 2015 van Avi Liran, Chief Delighting Officer en Positive Leadership Consultant.

18 Minutes Stand Up Meetings

Do you have “meeting fatigue”? As a positive leadership consultant, I often hear the frustrations of  managers on how much time is wasted in meetings and conferences calls.

What if every meeting was designed to be  just 18 minutes? 

Why must we spend exactly one hour in a meeting? What if we can finish discussing everything after 43 minutes? What if we can say it all in 18? And what if we all stand up while talking?

“As more and more stuff you need to remember piles on, it creates greater and greater pressure and pretty soon you’re going to drop it all.”  ~ Dr. Paul King

  • From research in Neuroscience and what we know about how the brain processes information we know that 15 minutes is the effective time for a meeting . In research conducted by Dr. Paul King at Texas Christian University he found that accumulation of information results in “cognitive backlog”
  • TED talks are restricted to 18 minutes. Speakers present concepts that took them a life time to develop under 18 minutes because it is long enough to present a serious and interesting concept and short enough to hold people’s peak attention.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream” full speech from 1963 in Washington took less than 17 minutes. It changed the world. Some great ideas can be articulated well in a short time
  • It is told that Steve Jobs rule of was to walk out of a meeting if it lasts more than 30 minutes.  Knowing the importance of focus audience on short sessions, at exactly 15 minutes into his presentation of the launch of the iPhone in 2007,  Jobs started a demo of the new device.
  • We adjust to given time. If we know that we only have 18 minutes, we have to stay focused and concentrate , we can’t multitask with our mobile devices because we lose if we snooze. On the otter hand, work will expand to the time we schedule for it.
  • Reasonable expansion: If more time is needed, it spills over. But even 100% spillover is only 18 minutes. Follow up meetings are not discouraged. On the contrary. The nature of these meetings requires smaller teams who are directly involved thus not taking resources from the big forum and focus on actions.
  • Planning and Meaning: 18 minutes forces to plan the meeting well with a purpose asking the Why behind every topic presented. Preparation is paramount. Short meetings are effective if people are assigned to each task and at the end they set the next step stages and milestones for delivery.
  • Recording: Not every participant needs to be updated with all the information. With technology a recording can be made and people can be aware of the section that relates to them with a need to stay long hours tuned to conference call that eats into their family time

The Daily “Stand-Up Meeting”

My great friend Noam Ziv went in 1987 to work in a small startup in San Diego. He told me then about a “strange habit”. Everyday the manager will gather for a 5 to 10 minutes stand-up meeting. Managers stand with the coffee and secretaries write down. Once they finish the meeting, the leaders would go to their respective direct reports and conduct a similar stand-up meeting. That was before the days of the internet. BTW, this small company is one of the most successful technology companies in the world: Qualcomm.

Benefits:

  • Improve creativity and teamwork: study  “Get Up, Stand Up” the researchers from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Andrew Knight and Dr. Markus Baer found that when people stand during meetings, they appeared more excited by their work, acted less territorial about their ideas, and interacted better as a team.
  • Effective communication. People are updated from the source. The daily commitments allows participants to know about potential challenges and problems ahead of time. It enables better coordination of resources.
  • Positive attitude to focus efforts to resolve difficult issues and have clarity that reduces the noise of miscommunication. Face to face feedback discourages talk behind the back. If someone complains to the boss that that manager did not meeting the timeline and it hurts her/his ability to perform, the answer is: “Share it in the morning in his/her face”


In 2011 we were invited to help the top 250 leadership team of the most profitable Integrated Resort in the world – Marina Bay Sands. At the implementation workshop the teams had concluded a mantra.

“Email is notification, Face to Face (or even a call) is communication” ~ MBS leader

Some of the participants reported that they saved an hour a day by stepping out of their workstation and meeting the person face to face instead of using email. They reported significant reduction in misunderstandings and that is logical. It is better to talk through disagreement, then email “following our conversation, we agreed that …. and these are the open items for further discussion…”. Email communication (especially with CCs) can become sensitive and bring noise to the system.

  • KISS: Standing up is less comfortable then sitting down. It reminds people to keep the meeting short and to-the-point.
  • Saves need for other meetings: By reporting what was accomplished yesterday, what will be attempted today,  what problems they are facing and the progress on the pending issues, there is  less need for other meetings on the same issues.

Managers report that they spend on average 20 minutes a day reading between 30 to 50 CC emails they could do without . That equals to a loss of  9 working days a year” ~ Avi Liran

  • In the era of information overload, keeping stand-up meeting reduces the need for so many CCs. Everyone is updated in what they need to be updated.

And what if the meeting is about to pass 18 minutes?

  •  You can call for task force follow up dedicated meetings
  • Or try this:

Not every meeting can be a short one, like strategy meeting, product development brainstorming, board meeting, town-hall speech and more.   But almost every meeting can be more effective. But before you jump to conclusion that a long meeting is a must here are a few questions that you might want to ask yourself:

  • Do I really need all that time or I can make it shorter?
  • Understanding “Cognitive Backlog” effect, can  I break the meeting to short segments where only the participants that are needed attend them?
  • How can I make the meeting more exciting and engaging?
  • What parts can be delegated to smaller focused teams?

Remember:  The famous launch of the first iPhone was about 90 minutes long, but after 15 minutes, Steve Jobs started the demo.

And!!! don’t forget to state the agenda in advance to respect the time of other participants.  Here is hilarious six-minute TED Talk “How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings,” by David Grady.

If you want to know more about how to design the 18 minutes most effectively, there are many resources available on the net. One of the known methodologies is called Scrum-style daily stand-ups. It involves asking and answering three questions:

  1. What did I accomplish yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. What obstacles are impeding my progress?

Here is a nice animated tutorial clip with interactive questions:

 

Bron: klik hier

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