The Way IT Companies Work 2: Agile, Starting the Day with Stand-up Meeting

“Every morning at 10 o’clock, we start our day with a stand-up meeting where each of us share the work progress. Also, we discuss the tasks to be done on that day and areas in need of extra help. The meeting lasts for only 15 minutes even though nearly 10 members take part in it.”

A wide range of industries are now adopting the way startup companies work including an agile* technique called “scrum”. Scrum is a project management methodology through which the entire work to be done for product development is broken down into time-boxed iterations that will allow the team to develop products in high quality within a short period of time. Here, the work divided in iterations are called “sprints,” and “stand-up meeting” is one of the means of facilitating these sprints. Stand-up meeting, also referred to as daily scrum or check-in, is an innovative method that can help boost the productivity of companies, which is now being introduced in not only IT companies but also various other industries.
* Agile is a practical approach that enables swift development of products and services based on continuous enhancements made in line with the needs of customers, which is used by a vast majority of IT companies nowadays.

Stand-up meeting reduces excessively long meeting hours and aligns the team in the same direction.

There is a need to change how meetings are conducted in Korea, because attendees generally do not read the meeting materials in advance and those who are essentially needed for decision making are often left out while too many unnecessary people take part in it. Meetings that last for long hours are one of the key factors that undermine the productivity of work. And of course, the endless comments made by the person sitting at the top seat of the meeting room are what makes us even more tired and exhausted. So that is why a lot of people continuously thought about ways to shorten the meetings.

One of the methods developed as a result of such contemplation is “plank meeting,” which was also introduced in a Korean quiz show as “a miraculous meeting method gaining popularity worldwide which can shorten meeting hours by nearly 79%.” This method of holding meetings in plank position was developed to significantly reduce unnecessary comments during meetings, since it will be difficult to maintain the plank position for a long time. Though it may be hard to apply this every day, we may try this occasionally when we’re struggling with prolonged meetings. However, if the host is someone who loves to work out, the meeting may go on longer than expected!

Stand-up meeting is usually held every day, and each participant makes brief comments that last for only 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Through the meeting, team members can align their work towards the same direction by discussing the extent of progress made in the regarding sprint (development period broken down in small time slots) and issues arising within it. Moreover, members can make decisions in person rather than through non-face-to-face means such as emails or reports, which can help raise the effectiveness of communication.

Then, how can we hold stand-up meetings?

Let’s learn about how to conduct stand-up meetings by looking at the example of our team. In the process of developing a new IT service, our team is coping with a number of small errors (bugs) and sometimes have to completely change the features under development upon the request of users. Also, our team members can freely choose whether to work from home or the office. Though this may seem like a complex situation to handle, it can all be straightened out by having a stand-up meeting through which each member can have a clear grasp of the work to be done and concentrate on it.

1) Gather together at a fixed time by using online collaboration tools
At 10 o’clock, our team gather together for a stand-up meeting. Since some are working home due to the COVID-19, we gather through non-face-to-face meetings by using video conferencing tools such as Zoom or WebEx as well as web services like Miro or Marimba that are more widely used in recent days.

Capture image of Miro Introduction video
Miro is a digital whiteboard service used by various IT companies including DELL and Cisco See Video
Capture image of Marimba Introduction video
Marimba is a real-time online whiteboard collaboration tool that makes online classes, non-face-to-face workshops, and remote work more convenient and fun See Video

2) Have an interesting time for icebreakers
We spend some time for icebreakers by freely talking about movies or books we’ve recently seen or new insights. For less than five minutes, we can share anything about our daily life, whether it be jokes we saw on the Internet or new knowledge. This will help boost teamwork though working apart due to the pandemic and give time to warm up for the work meeting. These days, our team shares useful tips for coping with COVID-19. We may sometimes rate our mood for starting the day and share reasons behind it, or use various team-building techniques.

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Post-it, emoji, and “copy + paste” of videos are available on Marimba, which can be used to share the interests of multiple users (source: https://www.marimba.team/)

3) To begin the stand-up meeting in earnest, make a short presentation prepared in a fixed template
Five minutes before the meeting, we prepare the template used for the meeting on an online whiteboard. Rather than creating complicated diagrams or pictures, we write simple post-it memos for our presentations. We can of course use different templates for the meeting, but it will be better to prepare presentations in a format that is most familiar to the team members. Our team members usually write down the three points of what we did yesterday, what to do today, and problems/areas in need of help on a post-it.

miro ideation & Brainstorming Registration onboarding Sign up flow 2nd visit In-Product free Messaging is not good Button is too small Name field is not useful Leslie Invite to team is useful Use cases are appropriate Start from scratch Jules Apps & Templates for role Real-time collaboratiom 100%
- Continue Work from Home with Marimba New hardware! So much efficient Design review with other module team Seeing the first-hand user feedback in the session recordings User validation - Stop Too much meetings!!! Standup not starting on time...waiting for folks to show up unclear communications waiting days to receive feedback - Start dog fooding Designers-PMs retro party!! for new member] Town hall meeting with all members buying coffee

Collaboration apps like Miro or Marimba offer the online digital whiteboard feature, which allows users to edit contents in real time and hold video conferences using webcams. Through this, users can revise the basic direction of the work during the meeting and hold another video conference on the issues mentioned immediately after the stand-up meeting.

FAQ on the points to note for stand-up meetings

1) Stand-up meetings should not last for more than 15 minutes. To do so, dividing teams in smaller sizes, such as small units of groups called “squads” can be a way.

2) Various types of templates may be used for stand-up meetings rather than limiting them to post-its or certain charts. However, the three questions on the work done yesterday, things to do today, and relevant issues must be addressed in the meeting. Teams adopting Kanban may use it to carry out stand-up meetings.

3) Why don’t we stand during the meeting even though it is called stand-up? The key of stand-up meeting is its short presentation time. Attendees may stand up during the meeting if it is held in person, but do not have to do so in online settings. Well of course, stand-up meetings held face-to-face are greatly helpful for building teamwork and raising the efficiency of decision making.

4) For a successful stand-up meeting, the presentation time given to each member should all be the same regardless of job rank or position. Those in high rank including executives and team leaders should not be given more time for comments. In cases where more time is needed due to prolonged presentations or important issues to be solved, a separate meeting should be held to address them. Well of course, an executive attending a stand-up meeting will set a great example, though hardly seen at work.

Today’s article about the way IT companies work explained about “stand-up meeting” which may seem like a simple morning assembly but can profoundly raise the productivity of team members. It can also offer great help in conducting group projects or practicing brainstorming techniques. And by the way, it doesn’t have to be held in the morning. If necessary, it may be conducted frequently whenever an issue needs to be addressed.

The third part of this article will cover the topic of “hack culture.”

+ The Way IT Companies Work 1: Leading the Trend towards “Cloud”

By Andy Cho Principal Professional of Samsung SDS