I was at a conference a couple weeks ago, and one of the speakers described the "lean huddle methodology" as a way to cut down on useless, ineffective meetings so we can all spend more time doing actual work. Since I've railed against unproductive meetings in the past, hearing someone else celebrate the same meeting approach we use on our team every day got me all giddy.
Instead of shouting out "ME TOO!" like some sort of weird meeting groupie, I jotted down a note to write a quick blog post about how to run your own lean, effective team meetings.
This is that blog post.
How to Run the Most Effective Team Meeting of Your Life
To run an efficient and effective team meeting, simply have everyone in the group answer the following questions:
1) What have I done since our last meeting?
This gives people an opportunity to talk about projects that are taking longer than they expected -- and ask for help, advice, resources, etc. It also holds everyone on the team accountable for their performance, managers included.
If everyone in the group is rattling off meaningful accomplishments, underperformers quickly identify themselves. The smart ones will self-identify, probably be a bit embarrassed that they're not pulling their weight, and then self-correct. The not-so-smart ones will not ... but with transparency around what everyone's working on, there's data to fall back on if resource or headcount changes are required.
2) What will I do before our next meeting?
This question is the most important part of the meeting, and it identifies what everyone's working on that day or that week. (Note: We hold these meetings daily because of the pace and output our specific team requires; other teams might find daily meetings like these to be overkill, and that's cool, too.) This isn't about micromanaging -- rather, it's an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, ask for help, ask questions, and reorder to-do lists based on changing team priorities and feedback.
I've seen a ton of time saved over the years because of these quick check-ins. For instance, projects that I would've spent hours on were cut down to minutes because someone knew a shortcut. Tasks I thought were important were wiped off my to-do list because it just wasn't a priority anymore. And teammates found opportunities to offer helpful advice that we wouldn't have gotten had we not all heard the projects we're working on.
3) What are the things that will interrupt me from doing those things?
Finally, everyone should have an opportunity in these meetings to identify roadblocks and ask for help. You might not solve the actual problem in that meeting, but you can identify that one exists and realize that further discussion -- perhaps with different people than are at this meeting -- is needed.
Again, frequent check-ins like these help identify small problems before they become big problems, saving everyone a ton of time wasted on projects that have gone off the rails or that no longer align with larger team goals.
These meetings should not last any longer than 30 minutes. In fact, our team of eight typically holds our meeting in about ten minutes. To ensure the meeting stays on track, be vigilant about tangents -- we even try to stand, instead of sit, to keep ourselves from going over on time. If it's clear a subject matter requires more discussion, save it for another communication venue so the entire group isn't listening to a specific problem that is only relevant for one or two other people in the group.
This meeting model isn't meant to eradicate all of your meetings. In fact, you'll probably find that periodically, you could benefit from a smaller follow-up meeting based off some of the items discussed in these "huddles" or "standups" as they're called. But it should make your team more efficient, help keep everyone accountable for their work, and prevent employees from spending hours, days, or weeks on projects that are going in the wrong direction -- or worse, are no longer even relevant.