In a startup -- especially a bootstrapped startup -- the clock is always ticking. Time is definitely money. That's why many startup founders avoid holding meetings like the plague, since unnecessary meetings waste precious time better spent doing, not talking.
But there is one kind of meeting that can be vital to startup success: A daily 10-minute -- definitely no more than 20-minute -- standup meeting that allows your team to quickly work through issues and exchange information that eliminates friction points. And that allow you as a leader to identify potential problems sooner rather than later, and step in to remove barriers and provide early assistance that can make all the difference.
We hold daily stand-up meetings at LogoMix. They work.
But don't just take my word for it.
Half your problems can be solved with a daily 30-second conversation.
In Creativity, Inc.: Uncovering the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Disney Animation president Ed Catmull writes, "Dailies are part of the Pixar culture, not just because of what they accomplish -- constructive midstream feedback -- but because of how they accomplish it. The result of daily meetings: We see more clearly."
That's because easily half of the issues your startup faces can be solved with a 30-second conversation. One person shares something. Another person shares something in response. And friction gets removed.
That database problem Marlon couldn't solve? Tracy knows the workaround.
But don't assume every member of the team will automatically understand the purpose -- and the format -- of daily stand-up meetings. That's why it's your job to set the tone.
Explain what you will talk about, and why. Explain the purpose of the meeting. Then, for a time, lead the meeting, gently making course corrections when issues get raised that are too broad for the setting or when your team tries to dive too deeply into the rabbit hole of detail.
Or when someone raises an issue that needs to be taken "offline." That's the term we used when a longer conversation is needed or when two or three people -- not the entire group -- need to spend time working through a problem. One of the worst things you can do is allow two people to discuss a subject that's only pertinent to them. The rest of the team will quickly disengage, and the energy of the stand-up is lost.
In other cases, one person might need to complete a task before the conversation can move forward. Or, a longer conversation is required before a decision can be made and a direction established.
Some people will get frustrated when a conversation needs to be taken, as we call if, offline. That's OK. Spend a few minutes later reinforcing the purpose of the stand-up meeting and reassuring them that the issue they want to discuss is important and will be dealt with -- just not during the stand-up meeting.
Stand-up meetings help you know more about your company.
When people trust and know they will be heard, they're less concerned about where they will be heard. Once you've established the tone and the format of your stand-up meetings, you can ease back and let the team take over.
And that's when stand-up meetings can really benefit you as a leader.
No leader can be everywhere. No leader knows everything. Stand-up meetings help me understand where the friction points are, if and when interpersonal issues are involved, whether the right people are involved in the right tasks, and whether barriers exist the team simply can't get past. When you step back, you can observe and listen rather than talk.
That's when you learn the most about your business and your team. You'll realize when you need to helicopter in and help people solve tough problems. You'll notice when priorities get off track and people are working on tasks that won't drive results.
And you'll stay more focused on what you need to do to drive results.
Maybe you'll only hold stand-up meetings every other day. Or every three days. Or just once a week. Whatever you choose, hold the meetings to 10 minutes. That way they're not a burden.
And they'll definitely help you do your job better.