Visual Workflow Management: Stand Up Meetings

One of the most frequently asked questions about implementing lean product development is ‘where should we start?’

Ron Mascitelli answers this question in his book, Mastering Lean Product Development:  “Start by implementing Visual Workflow Management.  There is no tool or method in my repertoire that has had greater success, both from the standpoint of impact on team performance and from the perspective of ease of implementation.”

Organisational change is a beast that feeds on success.  Quick and highly visible wins are critical to building momentum and gaining credibility with any new project or venture.  Visual Workflow Management is a simple two-step methodology to maximise productivity and collaboration in a rapidly changing development environment. 

Visual Workflow Management is based on blending brief and frequent stand-up meetings with the use of a visual management tool to clearly understand and visualise the current state of activities and enable real-time planning of future actions.  The clarity and frequent collaboration accelerate the development progress, allowing for pivots and early recognition of potential pitfalls.

Stand Up Meetings

In this article, we will focus on the stand-up meetings.  We will explore the visual charting more thoroughly in our next piece.   


The most important attribute of a successful stand-up  meeting is brevity.  There are three core questions to cover:

What has the team accomplished since the last meeting?

what actions must be completed by the next meeting?

what issues or obstacles might prevent the team from reaching these goals?

It is vital to keep these meetings brief – no longer than 15 minutes.  This gives a sense of urgency to the development team and allows physical comfort as participants are standing throughout.   In the beginning, the use of a kitchen timer or mobile phone stopwatch can be beneficial in conditioning participants to the short duration.  


Brevity may be the most important aspect of stand up meetings, but frequency is the most unusual.   The optimal frequency of stand-up meetings should adjust to align with the needs of the project.  An easy way to determine this is to ask:  how rapidly do things change on this project?

Periods of intensive collaboration, prototype testing and the like will call for more frequent periods, where meeting less frequently serves best during lull periods.  That said, a general rule of thumb is about three times a week.  This time frame allows a significant amount of work to be completed between meetings, but avoids meeting too frequently when there isn’t any news to share.  


In order for stand up team meetings to be effective, they must be lead by the team.  Initially, the team leader will be responsible for getting people to show up on time, holding to the fifteen minute duration, imparting a sense of urgency and so on.  After a few weeks, however, rotating the facilitation of the meeting among the team members is a simple tactic that cultivates a team-lead environment.
When properly instituted, these meetings will take on a life of their own, encourage collaboration across multi-disciplinary functions, overcome obstacles and ultimately build the emotional commitment that is vital to the innovation team behaving like a cohesive team.  

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