Why Stand Up Meetings Belong In Lean Business Culture

My First Stand-up Meeting

I came across stand-up meetings many years ago. I had a very forward-thinking project manager and I was a team leader mechanic. He had set up a daily stand-up meeting with a visual management and KPI board. The meetings were held in the workshop on a mine site. In other words, in the Gemba.

The board helped the project manager to drive accountability through the business and through the workshop. The meeting would start with the question, what was our plan yesterday? How did we go executing on that plan? What new issues do we have? It was a short, sharp, 10-minute meeting where he, as the leader of this department, had the opportunity to drive some serious accountability.

The Importance of Preparation
At first, I didn’t understand it. I was young and I didn’t understand how important it was to come prepared. It was not like other meetings I’d been to, because it was very direct. If certain things on that board were going well, then we acknowledged it and we moved on. If something was red, if something wasn’t going right, he wanted to know what’s the plan of action and when is it going to green? If you didn’t have those answers, you were in big trouble. He was very strict.
Held To Account
In the first week, I slipped up, and I caught an earful about it. He said, “You’ve come unprepared, you don’t have the information. I know you can get the information, but you’ve got to be prepared. Don’t let this happen again.” From then on, I realised how important the stand-up meeting was to a team, particularly a team that has to make sure that they achieve goals every day.
Stand-up Meetings Are Effective
From that day on I was in no doubt about why the stand-up meeting is so effective. It’s short. It’s sharp. It doesn’t drag on. It has a time limit. It’s very direct. The meeting is a focus on the process and the results. It was actually really difficult for me at first so I understand when people initially struggle with it.
Combination of Lean and Kaizen

The stand-up meeting combines a few important elements of Lean. Sometimes it is called the process improvement discussion. It is a fundamental part of the Lean culture of information flow and communication. It’s a fundamental part of visual management as well. The other part of the stand up meeting and the board that contains the KPI’s is to facilitate Kaizen. Poor results can be funneled into more Kaizen activities to improve the results.

Powerful & Direct Tool
Culturally, within Lean and Kaizen it’s a part of how we behave. We stand up around that board on a regular basis and have a meeting to discuss all the issues and all the successes within an area. It’s very powerful and very direct.

Valuable For Management
From a management point of view, the management team needs to drive Lean and Kaizen and help each other be accountable in maintaining the standards in Lean and continuous improvement approaches and habits. 

The stand-up meeting is part of driving management behaviour and management ‘walking the talk’.
Consistent With Lean Principles
If management takes the opportunity to stand with the team around that board on a regular basis and discuss the performance and results and the challenges and the successes, management is, in effect, towing the line and walking the talk of Lean and Kaizen.
One Important Step
If there is one thing that you really want to get started to improve your team’s performance (there are several, but this one is particularly helpful in employee engagement), it’s the stand-up meeting around a visual management board on a daily basis. This will enable your team or department to measure their daily performance and resolve the issues that are coming up.
Stand-up Meetings In A Big Department or Company
In a big department or company, it can look like this. You have a 15 minute stand up meeting around a company-wide or department-wide board that all the management and the leaders attend. Next, those team leaders go out to their departments or areas and their boards and have 15-minute stand-up meeting. 

In a very short time, you can communicate the entire performance of the company or the department to all the people involved. Within a matter of an hour, you can communicate to over a hundred people the entire status of the business, easily. That’s really important and in terms of continuous improvement, it’s really powerful. This cascade can be done in the opposite direction too, if that is strategically a preference.
I recommend you think about your own visual management board and what a stand-up meeting could achieve for your business. If you are interested in finding out more, you can get in touch using our Contact Form or visit Lean Consulting.