Daily Management Meeting — For An Engineering (Or Any Professional) Team?
Why do I talk to my team every day?
In lean principles, many manufacturing teams have a daily management or “stand-up” meeting at the beginning of a shift. The purpose of this meeting is to have daily contact with employees, set objectives, review metrics, and simply communicate what is happening within the team. Common goals for this meeting include setting the tone for the day and helping employees feel connected.
Can this work for professional teams as well?
They Will Hate It… At First.
I have been conducting a daily management meeting with my engineering teams for more than 15 years now. My meetings are NEVER perfect, and I have found them difficult to start with a new group.
Engineers do not behave like production, so these teams have been very resistant to my implementation of the daily meeting. “Why do we need to do this?” “We know what’s going on.” “We know what to do.” “This is a waste of my time—I could be coding right now.” Regardless of the words, these professionals resist the need to meet.
What I have found is that these daily meetings take several months to take hold. At first, everyone is resistant to taking 15-30 minutes every day to “talk.” Over time, you win over a few early adopters because they see the value of getting information. On a small team, this period is shorter. The larger teams always have one or two true naysayers who dig in.
The truly resistant teammates in the process are sometimes the very best reason for the meeting. They complain the most and get the most from the discussion. As the weeks pass, the biggest haters often convert into the greatest advocates. They tend to be the first to complain when a meeting is canceled because they had something to say. They feel engaged despite not “liking” seeing everyone each day. I find they secretly have learned to like these meetings.
Tips For A Successful Meeting:
To begin, I have adopted my format based on each individual team. Time, place, duration, and content are dependent on the needs of the team and will change over time. The following are simply a few things I have found successful.
- Same time and place — every single day: at first, you need to meet every day to build a habit, and I will not relent on this for at least a year. Location and time must also have consistency for the habit.
- Minimize the agenda to a few key topics — initially, I begin with announcements for the day, a review of major projects, key milestones, and open concerns. If you have more than five topics, you will not be effective. Be concise.
- Limit meeting time — always limit the conversation. Twenty minutes is my average, and I am consistently less than 30 with very few exceptions.
- No one is permitted to skip the meeting without asking prior permission. I usually ask for 24 hours’ notice, and you are expected to participate unless you receive a pass for the day. Myself included.
- Promptness is key — meetings begin at 11:30 am and make that known. Enforce it. Having the team show up on time is a level of respect for your teammates. Don’t allow tardiness to go unnoticed.
- Allow for sidebar and silliness… to a point — not everything in a team needs to be transactional or business oriented. Many of my meetings have gone off the rails early and ended with good team building. If everything is transaction based, the team will have a robotic feel.
- Allow the team to form the meeting — in the beginning, commanding control is necessary to build confidence in the process. Over time, allow the team to morph into what it needs to be successful. Many of my teams have abandoned my original agenda within four to six months and developed their own feel. The purpose of the meeting is for the team—not your own agenda.
(P.S. I used this very effectively during COVID-19, and when my team works from home, we still meet virtually to remain connected. These meetings do not need to have a physical presence to work.)
How Does This Benefit Me And My Team?
Connection—teams need to know they are connected and feel part of something greater than themselves. A good team builds rapport over time and learns to feed off one another.
I have built some strong teams in my career. My first team where I employed this process was very disjointed, and I had many lone wolves asking to be left alone. Give me my work, and get out of my way. Each person was great and a true expert in their niche. However, they did not work together to learn, grow, and become better.
I made many mistakes with this process, and after the first year, we still were finding our stride. In the second year, we began to gel. In year three, our meetings became more than expected. Problems were solved in minutes, not days. Issues were in the open versus the behind-the-back discussions. We won internal business challenges between teams by orders of magnitude. Everyone was in it for the benefit of the group—even the lone wolves. Years late after I moved on, two of my “toughest” engineers actually thanked me and missed those meetings in their career. They agreed they still hated the meeting, and they remembered how great our team performed.
Can you do the same? I say yes. The secret sauce is the discipline to push beyond the initial hatred and allow the process to grow. My mentor who asked me to begin this process knew I hated it as well, and he pushed me to keep trying. He could see the benefits before I could.
When a team communicates well, shares the same objectives, and solves problems openly, no one can stop their performance. Would you like to have this same experience?
Summing Everything Up...
As I hinted earlier, I was an initial skeptic. I did not want to “waste” time with a 20-30 minute meeting every day. Add all our hours up over a year, and my lean mentor would show me the thousands of seconds lost! I persevered.
Remember, the key to the process is communicating. At first, you will be the leader doing most of the speaking hoping someone listens. Eventually, others will open up and share as well. Even the naysayers will pick up on some of the discussion allowing it to seep in slowly. Regardless, be consistent. Push the team to interact and develop the habit. Use command/control initially, and give the team room to breathe. See how it grows.
The first few meetings will be 100% for you as the leader. Eventually, the tide will shift and become about the team members. If you have an exceptional team, the discussion will become something even greater than imagined. You will see your team care for one another, discuss issues respectfully, and perform better than you imagined… all because you made them talk to each other for 20 minutes a day. Stating it like that, it is such a small investment with immeasurable returns!
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