How to Run a Daily Meeting

Before you run away from this idea (i.e. if you’re thinking, “I already have way too many meetings in my life!”), just hang with me for a moment. As I wrote a few years ago, some of the most successful companies in the world use daily meetings (companies like Goldman Sachs, for example), as well as companies using agile processes.

Now, if you’re skeptical of the idea, here’s the simplest way I know of for how to get your head around it. If you and your team meet on a monthly basis, what’s the cycle time between meetings? Four to five weeks. So if Joe misses this month’s meeting, it might be eight or nine weeks between meetings before he has to report back on his progress. And if he hasn’t completed his project, it might be another four or five weeks before he has to give account for his actions (i.e. almost three months).

On the other hand, if you meet weekly as a team, what’s the cycle time for that meeting rhythm? Seven days. Much better than monthly (or bi-weekly) but if something isn’t getting done or there’s a problem, it can be several weeks before it’s dealt with. However, if you set up your business to have a daily meeting rhythm, what’s the cycle time for that? Exactly. Twenty-four hours.

In other words, by shortening the cycle time between meetings, you can radically speed up the process of making progress in your business (whether you’re thinking about growing your business or solving a problem or completing a project/initiative). So, if you’re at least intrigued by the idea, here are a few key questions and best practices to ensure you get the most out of using a daily meeting strategy.

I. What’s the difference between a daily meeting and a regular staff meeting?

A regular staff meeting, in most businesses, attempts to do several things. For example, you may try to communicate important upcoming information, get status updates, discuss key strategic items, solve problems, brainstorm and/or evaluate ideas, review metrics, make decisions, etc. In other words, weekly, bi-weekly and/or monthly staff meetings try to cram a number of different ideas into one long meeting—which is why they often last anywhere from 60 to 180 minutes.

A daily meeting, on the other hand, is a fifteen-minute or less meeting (often held standing up) that convenes every day which is specifically designed to avoid common issues that bog down meetings–like brainstorming and problem-solving.

II. What are the goals of a daily meeting?

While the idea of a daily meeting is pretty flexible to interpretation (i.e. as long as you’re meeting daily, it is, by definition, a daily meeting) there are some common goals that most companies that use them tend to have in common. For example, one typical goal is to speed up and improve the flow of information between all the players in an organization or unit of an organization (depending on the size of the company or the project) so that everyone knows what’s going on.

Another common goal is to help facilitate continuous improvement. By unearthing problems and impediments early and then getting commitments early on to solve them, you can speed up the improvement process significantly.

A third common goal is to create more accountability for the members of a team. By having each team member report progress and make commitments that they then need to report back on a regular/daily basis can radically change the sense of accountability.

A fourth common goal is to increase teamwork. If everyone is constantly reporting to the team on not only what they’re working on but what they’re stuck on, it allows each of the other team members to help solve problems faster, as well as to piggyback off of ideas. A well-run daily meeting should create a greater sense of unity.

And, of course, what underlies all of the above, is the core goal of speed. Daily meetings speed up the process of moving projects, plans and deals forward faster.

III. How long should a daily meeting last?

The universal answer to that question is, “Fifteen minutes of less.” Some companies, like 1-800-Got-Junk like to limit theirs to eight minutes, but, in general, most practitioners all agree on the fifteen minute rule.

Moreover, keeping the meeting to fifteen minutes is critical to the success of the daily meeting. You do not want people to dread coming to it or feel like it’s going to take a chunk out of their day.

A daily meeting is not a problem-solving/story-telling/strategic planning kind of meeting. It’s a 15 minute meeting designed to keep everyone on track and moving forward together faster.

Do NOT break the 15 minute rule.

IV. When and where should you hold a daily meeting?

Again, there’s a lot of flexibility in holding a daily meeting. In other words, a global manufacturing company and a five person local print shop would have very different answers to this question. However, there are some general guidelines that work well for most businesses.

  1. The sooner in the day, the better. This allows the attendees a better chance to act on what was shared in the daily meeting.
  2. If you have flex time (or frequent breakfast appointments), you may want to hold your daily meeting around mid-morning or before lunch
  3. Some practitioners have found that odd times (like 9:43 a.m.) work better for memory’s sake
  4. The closer to where people work, the better
  5. If you have a key metric board or project board (like agile practitioners who use Improvement Boards), meet near there (i.e. this meeting doesn’t have to occur in a board room)
  6. If your company is disbursed into various geographic locations, no problema. A conference call or video chat or a combination of people who are present, plus others who are on a conference call works. This means that if someone’s on the road, that’s not an excuse to miss the call.

V. How should the meeting be structured?

In general, most practitioners of daily meetings use a set series of questions that they ask everyday. In a typical scrum environment, the three core questions are

  1. What did you do (yesterday)?
  2. What will you do (today)?
  3. What issues are you wrestling with (or impediments or problems or roadblocks)?

There is no perfect list of questions. Here are some other questions that other businesses ask

  • Who has some good news?
  • What are you doing today that will drive the growth of our company?
  • What are you doing today that will be profitable?
  • Where are you stuck?
  • What’s hindering your progress?
  • The one thing I must get done today is …
  • In order to meet our quarterly goals, today I’m going to …
  • Where are you on your metrics?

Regardless of what questions you ask, you’ll want to keep them to three or four questions max. If you do the math, at eight people, each person has less than two minutes to speak.

VI. Any other best practices?

Glad you asked 🙂

  1. This is a team experience so don’t have people report to the team leader/facilitator. Have them report to everyone on the team.
  2. For 15 minutes, no cell phone, laptops, or mobile surfing allowed. Everyone needs to stay fully engaged.
  3. Don’t skip the problems/impediments question. You want your people to get comfortable talking about where they’re encountering difficulty. This will create a healthier team (plus open the person to others in the group to help)
  4. Take conversations offline. If two people start discussing an issue, have the facilitator say, “Great. Why don’t the two of you talk about that afterwards.” Or, “That’s a great offline conversation for the two of you to follow-up on.” Do not let any lengthy problem solving to go on. On the other hand, if Jill says, “I have a problem with X” and Ahmed says, “If you contact Frank over at Acme, he can solve that for you,” that’s fine. One of the sub-goals of the daily meeting is to facilitate follow-up conversations.
  5. Have someone keep track of sidebar issues that can then be followed up during your regular staff meeting.

Well, there you go. Everything you need to know about how to run a daily meeting. Now, all you need to do is schedule your first one. Oh, and my recommendation would be that you do it as a one month trial. By then you’ll either be hooked or know you gave it a valiant try. However, I have a feeling that the probability of the former being more true than the later is rather high.

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other ideas about daily meetings or things you’ve learned from doing them, make sure you share them in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by email or RSS)