I just read an article by Steve Smith entitled Rethinking Stand-Up Meetings. I encourage you to read the article, in case you disagree with my interpretations and conclusions here. As always, I might be wrong.

I was particularly struck by this passage:

When I started my career, I had to wear a tie every day. The next job required a suit. Management told me clothing built teamwork. I think standing up during a meeting is like wearing a tie. My teamwork isn’t any better wearing a suit and tie than it is when I wear shorts and a t-shirt And I don’t believe my team’s effectiveness changes whether they are standing up or sitting down during a meeting.

Steve is welcome to believe his team’s effectiveness doesn’t depend on standing up or not standing up, but I’m worried about his logic. He seems to conclude, incorrectly I think, that since stand-ups don’t help his team be effective, therefore standing up at a meeting, in general, doesn’t matter. This is a false generalization.

While it’s true that stand-up meetings don’t indicate team effectiveness, stand-up meetings do at least help people re-think how they meet. If nothing else, it reminds people to get to the point, and when someone drones on, it gives others a chance to practise holding that person to account for droning on. Granted, I’ve seen bad stand-up meetings, but given that stand-ups have a clear objective and focus on essential communication, when I watch a painful stand-up meeting, I can easily point to it as an example of the team’s communication problems. It clearly illustrates some ways they need to improve. If nothing else, the way a team behaves in a stand-up meeting tells me a great deal about how it communicates overall. I find that very useful.

I have also found stand-ups useful as a participant, so they’re not just useful to a consultant trying to learn about how the team behaves.

So Steve, while I applaud your title, “Rethinking Stand-Up Meetings”, I think the passage I’ve highlighted is too easy for doubters to excerpt and say to themselves “See? These stand-ups are as useless as neckties.” On average, that’s just not true.