Many teams benefit from a short daily check-in meeting where they synch up on what's done, what's happening that day and the state of the state. A quick daily check-in is standard practice for hospital teams, software developers, logistics manager, leadership teams, and more.
Or, perhaps I should say that they all have a daily check-in meeting because many teams fall short when it comes to keeping it short. The best check-ins last no more than 10 to 15 minutes, including the time it takes everyone to get to the meeting and back.
If your team's check-in is really an extended chit-chat, here are five simple ways to bring that check-in down to size.
1. Stand up.
If you're sitting down for this check-in when you could stand, you're doing it wrong. One study found that meetings where everyone stands get the same results as seated meetings in 34 percent less time.
Given that many teams call their check-in a stand-up meeting, I'm hoping you already have this one down.
2. Take it for a walk.
Because check-in meetings don't need a lot of documentation (there's no agenda here and often no need for notes), they're a great candidate for a short walking meeting.
Teams of five or fewer people can check in on their way to grab a coffee or in a quick loop around the office. The distance you walk determines the length of the meeting.
Walking meetings can be great in general, but they're especially nice for check-ins because this makes it easier for everyone to transition afterward. Often a check-in meeting will reveal something one or two people need to talk about some more, which they can go do while everyone else just continues back to work.
3. Pass a timer.
Many check-in practices ask people to speak for no more than one or two minutes. You can enforce this rule very simply by passing a timer to each person as they speak.
I've seen teams use a small hourglass, like you'd see in a board game, or a simple kitchen timer. You can also set a timer on a cell phone. Timers work especially well for teams with remote participants or others for whom the more physical options here aren't appropriate.
My favorite way to conduct a timed check-in is with an exercise timer called a Tabata timer. I set the timer for one minute of "work" followed by five seconds of rest, then set the number of "rounds" to match the number of people in the group. A Tabata timer works great because it has no mercy. It keeps moving forward whether you want it to or not. The fact that each "round" begins with a wrestling-match starting bell and ends with a coach's whistle keeps it fun, too.
4. Use weights. Heavy, awkward weights.
Pass the biggest book you can find around the group and have the person speaking hold it out at arm's length. A kettlebell works well too. If you don't have anything heavy - or people who really shouldn't be handed heavy things - you can go for awkward instead. A large, oddly-shaped box or stuffed animal would do, as would a floor lamp.
I learned this approach from a master facilitator working with software development teams. It's less rigid than using a timer because people can talk as long as they're willing to hold the heavy, awkward thing they've been handed. The weight acts as a reminder for the people who otherwise drone on, and the increasing discomfort encourages everyone to find a way to get to the point.
5. Everyone holds a plank.
I shared the tips above at a workshop, and afterward, a team leader came up to me saying, "I've found an even better way. For our check-ins, the team has to hold a plank for the whole meeting."
When you pass around a weight, only the person talking gets uncomfortable. When the whole team gets down to do a plank, maintaining a push-up position for the duration of the check-in, everyone feels the burn.
"It's awesome," she said. "As soon as someone starts getting into the weeds, everyone else yells 'Hey! You're killing me here!' We have great check-ins, and our abs aren't too shabby either."
Simple, fun, and quick. Given these examples, I know your team could come up with even more creative ways to encourage brevity in your next check-in. Bonus: when you invite the team to find their own ways to solve your overstuffed check-in problem, you'll be increasing engagement and autonomy too.