I once worked at a company that desperately wanted to be on the cutting edge of creative culture. The strategy for getting everyone on board involved a regular cadence of mandatory meetings.
There were meetings to see who could come up with the next “big idea,” lunch meetings to swap “in-the-field” stories and “super fun cleaning nights” that involved a peculiar mix of after-hours pizza and plungers intended to make us appreciate our collaborative environment.
We even had meetings to discuss how the public relations team could effectively coach employees with sound bytes to convince Inc. Magazine interviewers that, yes, this was indeed one of America’s best places to work. (Yes, that really happened. And no, we didn’t make the list.)
I hit survival mode about two months in. The goals were grand, but the execution had unintended consequences. We all became experts at enduring meetings. “It’s like being forced through a blender,” one colleague commented after a particularly grueling two-hour status update. “And not the quick-chop kind. One with old, dull blades that very slowly churn you into powder.”
It was his way of saying that no one wants yet another required activity standing in the way of productivity. Blenders are for energy-boosting vitamin smoothies, not motivation-zapping meetings.
Enter the online daily standup. Originated by a small-and-growing group of entrepreneurs who needed a way to build more effective remote teams, this collaborative approach gives employees more autonomy while simultaneously keeping everyone in the loop on day-to-day activities. It’s designed to take minutes instead of hours.
Wondering if virtual standups are right for your team? Answer the following questions to find out:
1. Do you like to keep meetings to a minimum?
Online daily standups can be used to keep a finger on the pulse of projects without adding anything to the calendar or bogging people down with an overbearing process. You simply ask team members to start each day by answering three key questions:
- What did you accomplish yesterday?
- What are you planning to do today?
- What challenges stand in your way?
Make the answers visible to everyone on your team, and you may be surprised at just how quickly struggles are resolved and day-to-day goals are reached.
2. Are you often surprised by tasks you didn’t know employees were handling or projects you weren’t aware of?
When projects and responsibilities are made visible on a daily basis, it’s easy to see who’s working on what. This process eliminates not only silos and surprises, but the need for nagging as well. Team members know who to contact when they get stuck and can be ready to jump in and assist when they have a solution.
3. Are you looking for a way to foster more open communication?
Documenting objectives and key results on a regular basis helps create a culture of true teamwork and collaboration. And when you use a collaboration tool that lets everyone do it online, on their own time, you set the stage to discuss the big picture instead of getting bogged down in details during your next team meeting or retreat.
4. Do your employees span several different time zones and office settings?
Remote work environments tend to be more productive and engaged. Still, it can be challenging to foster a culture of camaraderie without one unified work schedule. Virtual standups provide a venue for team members to “show up” where and when they start their days—be it in EST at a coffee shop or UTC from a home office. It also makes it easier to overlap early bird and night owl schedules so everyone’s online at the same time for at least part of the day.
5. Do you want an easy way to give employees more day-to-day recognition?
Positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing great work with more determination, but it’s not always easy to recognize the little milestones—let alone comment on them. Daily standups make accomplishments more visible so you can offer the timely high-fives and thank-yous that help keep employees excited and engaged.
Did you answer “yes” to all five questions? Online daily standups may just be your best bet for building a happy, productive team.
If you have questions about putting the system into practice, feel free to get in touch with the Jell team. Just don’t ask for a blender. We gave those up years ago.