Lean and Continuous Improvement

Are Stand-up Meetings Effective?

At Amazon we refer to our busiest time of year as “Peak”.  Each year as we prepare the teams for Peak, I recommend to establish a stand-up war room style of meeting.  As it is such a busy time and there are so many things that the teams have to manage and control, a stand-up war room style meeting makes sense to me.  You can review and cover a large amount of metrics and issues very quickly focusing on the most important while improving communication and engagement.

I’ve used stand-up meetings many times and found them to be an excellent way to stay on top of the most critical things, increase bias for action and ownership, while not taking up too much of the team’s time in meetings.  So why don’t more leaders utilize stand-up meetings?  I just don’t get it!  I think maybe leaders don’t use stand-up meetings because they can be difficult to get set-up and functional?  Or maybe this style of meeting just seems too simple to have any great effect?

Here are some of the advantages of a stand-up war room style meeting:

  • Use of flip charts and white boards make on the fly changes in format and material easy, quick and cheap
  • Open communication, more participation of the entire teamIMG_20181206_0903402
  • Meetings are more action based then reporting out of metrics
  • Team members get a better bigger picture understanding
  • Moving around the room keeps things moving and people engaged
  • Metrics are visual for all to see and understand where there are opportunities
  • Problem metrics stand out
  • There is more accountability of each team member
  • Great participation from all members
  • Faster, more effective meetings
  • Better focus
  • Engaging
  • Continual improvement in the process
  • Save time later by capturing risks, lessons learned, successes, new records, shout outs, actions, and new ideas

I had the opportunity to “stand” through what we call a Daily Deep Dive meeting that has been structured in the stand-up war room style at our YYZ4 Fulfillment Centre.  The team there refer to this as “The Command Centre”.  I found the meeting to be very effective and those in attendance also seemed to think so.  This is what some of them have said about this style of meeting:

It’s good to see all around and maximize human potential and deep engagement every day, especially outstanding individual and team accomplishments. Our new implemented visual daily standup meeting that I like to call it “powerful information command center” helped us to move from assuming, telling, blaming and reacting, To the essential measurable objectives, fact-base data, checking process consistency and opportunities to support people in process for Area readiness with communication, problem solving, organization alignment and holding each other accountable and Not unattractive or unloved wallpapers!

It is all about workgroup engagement and utilization of management practice and a Thinking system as we know Lean is a people system, not a technical one.

— Jeff Walters, Operations Manager, JLL —

At first, it was hard to adjust as we went through so many iterations of metrics and considerations of what should be discussed, but now it’s second nature.

— Agnes E. Pienio-Ganthier, LP Manager, Amazon —.

The Command centre really helped us to stay focused on key actions within stipulated timeframe as each action had an owner with an expected deadline. While we were celebrating successes each day, we were capturing Lessons Learnt along the way on one of our command centre walls. Most productive Deep Dive meeting format in my time at Amazon so far.

— Pawn Kukreja, Sr Operations Manager, Amazon —

The command centre has encouraged a higher level of engagement between departments as the audience is able to focus on the key points raised by the presenter that require immediate action. As a result, the quality of the information translated to leaders is enhanced by allowing appropriate stakeholders to quickly identify any necessary actions required to close a gap. This minimizes the requirement to parse through the noise to truly understand the root cause.

— Sharon Lai, EHS Specialist, Amazon —

At first, I thought the new format would extend the length of the production meeting. However, by sticking to a tight cadence that is actions-focused, the meeting is now more streamlined. Moreover, having everyone walk around the room together improved engagement and constructive discussions.

— Tony An, Sr Operations Manager, Amazon —

So there you have it!  Are stand-up meetings effective?  Well, straight from the leaders that are living this style of meeting at their busiest and most important time of the year, it certainly would seem like it!

What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of stand-up war room style meetings?  Have you found them effective?   Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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