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Standing Up for Speedier Meetings

We've all been there, held hostage by dreadful and interminable meetings. It's the intolerable waste of our time; the energy zapping, non-agenda meeting with its long-winded pontificators, the non-participating zombies, the sidebar chit-chatterers, the smart phone addicted tweeters and obsessive email checkers. Add that all up and you get a meeting that doesn't yield much by way of progress.

But wait, there's hope! (Cue the trumpets!).

Have you tried holding a stand up meeting?

Though technically not new, the stand up meeting is taking hold with forward thinking companies intent on making the best use of their time and energy.

Here's how it works:

Simple really, everyone is required to meet while standing up. No table to rest your laptop on or to hide your iPhone under while checking messages. There's a sense of urgency to get started. Standing up minimizes the time wasted settling in, the non-work chitchat and the lounging about that a conference table provides.

These are quick paced meetings that get to the heart of the matter and get people back to their posts quickly.  

It's as though a seated meeting is the new lazy.

I have a hotel client that gathers the key department heads together each morning for their stand up, quickly updating their peers with three things: what they have done since yesterday's meeting; what's their role in serving the hotel's guests, conferences and events today; and what obstacles stand in the way of getting their work done.

Rachel Emma Silverman, writing in the Wall Street Journal said, "Holding meetings standing up isn't new. Some military leaders did it during World War I, according to Allen Bluedorn, a business professor at the University of Missouri. A number of companies have adopted stand-up meetings over the years. Mr. Bluedorn did a study back in 1998 that found that standing meetings were about a third shorter than sitting meetings and the quality of decision-making was about the same."

More Ideas for Speeding Things Up.

Some Microsoft departments up in chilly Washington state have been known to hold their stand up meetings in an unheated stairwell to keep meetings brief.  

Holding meetings before lunch can speed things up. Try scheduling your stand up right at noon. The expectation of lunch can be a great motivator to keep things on point and wonderfully brief.

Front loading some "dire consequences" can also be helpful if not fun. If employees are late to the meeting they might have to entertain the group with singing a song like "I'm a Little Teapot", do pushups or pay a small fine.

If someone is rambling on for too long, an employee may hold up a rubber rat, indicating it is time to "get us out of the rat hole" and move on - all in good fun without the stigma of a personal attack.

Why not give the stand up meeting a try? See if it doesn't save valuable time, keep everyone highly focused and even make for better morale in the process.


By Jeff Blum, Lead Facilitator at The TeamBuilding Co.

Copyright 2012 Jeff Blum. All rights reserved.