Standing meetings: The bassline of an organisation
This article dives deep into the world of standing meetings, to help leaders and meeting participants alike to get more out of their regular, synchronous collaborations.
As a species, we humans represent something of a paradox when it comes to routine. On the one hand, we thrive off of the predictability and safety that routine affords, and on the other, we crave variety and freedom. Meetings often have to straddle this chasm.
While they might not offer freedom nor variety, standing meetings are the bassline of an organisation. They provide the consistent counterpoint for the harmony and melody of corporate life to rise above, and contribute to the rhythm which ebbs companies forwards.
However, as with most types of meetings, standing meetings are often accepted as a necessary evil, and are something that many of us dread when we open up our calendars and look at the days and weeks ahead.
This needn’t be the case. Standing meetings can be optimised, improved, and managed in such a way that makes them core to the efficiency of a team and of an organisation at large, rather than the opposite. Much like the bassline of great songs often rumble by unnoticed, standing meetings too can be overlooked, and this is a mistake.
In this article, we will dive into the world of standing meetings, to help leaders and meeting participants alike to get more out of their regular, synchronous collaborations, and to help them to avoid wasting time.
What are standing meetings?
Despite what you might first think, standing meetings are not meetings in which participants stand. Instead, any meeting that happens routinely can be considered a standing meeting. This isn’t impacted by the cadence at which they take place - for example, they could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even biannually or annually. They are the meetings that stay in the diary at their given frequency.
The subject of standing meetings can vary dramatically, but the overall scope and context from one to the next often doesn’t change. For example, a team’s weekly meeting, or a quarterly board of director’s meeting, or a monthly finance meeting - all of these can be considered as standing meetings, and while their objectives vary between one another, the overall shape of the meeting doesn’t morph from one standing meeting to the next.
And as such, the agenda for each of these different standing meetings is unlikely to change much. In fact, it is likely more efficient for meeting organisers to clone the agenda of their previous meeting, and update the relevant areas, as it will be easier to update what has changed rather than what hasn’t.
It is important to remember that standing meetings are not ‘stand-up’ meetings. Stand-up meetings are short meetings in which different stakeholders from a team give an update on the work they have completed, and the work they will complete, at a regular cadence - usually either daily or weekly. These meetings have become increasingly ubiquitous as organisations embrace agile ways of working, as stand-ups are central to the Agile methodology for project management. Stand-up meetings will likely always be standing meetings, however not all standing meetings will be stand-ups.
Subscribe to Sherpany newsletter and access the articles, interviews and product updates.
How to run effective standing meetings
It is true that most individuals will be responsible for a standing meeting, or even multiple, as we progress through our careers. So how can these standing meetings be run effectively? The following steps explain this in detail:
1. Have clear goals
To run your standing meetings effectively, it is important to first consider the goals of the meeting. Are they clear? And most important, are they still relevant? The objectives of standing meetings can shift over time, and it is imperative that you avoid keeping your standing meetings for meetings’ sake. It could be that your standing meeting is no longer the most effective means of achieving the objectives, or it could be that the objectives themselves are no longer relevant to your overall strategy. Before you dive head first into optimising your standing meetings, take a moment to reflect on what you are trying to achieve, and whether the format is still fit for purpose.
Once you are very clear on the objectives of your standing meeting, that they are still relevant, and the meeting is the best way to achieve them, you’re ready to begin organising your standing meeting.
2. Set and follow an agenda
As with other types of meetings, a successful standing meeting begins with a well-crafted agenda. Now, as we have already mentioned, these are unlikely to change drastically between meetings, but that doesn’t mean that they do not need careful consideration and attention. For each standing meeting, you as the meeting organiser should review the minutes from the previous meeting, and decide which items should be carried forward, which should be added, and which should be omitted. You should also include the others in the agenda creation process, as they will be able to contribute items that you might have otherwise missed.
Any meeting that happens routinely can be considered a standing meeting.
3. Define clear roles
Once the agenda has been created, you should choose your meeting participants and assign them roles. It might be that these remain static between standing meetings, however it could be that some individuals’ attendance is optional, and others simply aren’t required at all. Being very intentional about who you invite to your meetings is a key step in ensuring their full engagement, participation, and contribution to the overall success of the meeting.
4. Encourage meeting feedback
In terms of running your standing meeting effectively, it is important to continuously improve, and collect feedback at the end of each meeting. Meeting feedback should be anonymised,
and it should help you to refine your approach to organising and leading meetings.
The key benefits of standing meetings
Standing meetings take up a considerable amount of time in our collective calendars, however they also afford many benefits to leaders and organisations alike. The key benefits of standing meetings include:
- The opportunity for synchronous discussions to solve problems, remove blockers, and share ideas,
- Leaders receive important updates on key projects or initiatives, which also gives them the opportunity to step in if things aren’t staying on course,
- Team members are kept aligned by providing the opportunity to ask clarifying questions and exchange, and
- Organisational culture is kept alive - especially for remote or hybrid teams.
Standing meetings: Necessary, but not ‘evil’
It is clear that standing meetings will forever be a necessity in our work lives, however they needn’t be something that is met with a groan when we open our calendars. By following a series of simple steps, it is possible to optimise your standing meetings so that they give your organisation momentum and rhythm, without compromising the productivity and efficiency of your people. Very few songs can sustain without a bassline, and organisations are no different.