The transition from in-person to remote team management shocked me in mid-March. Not because of what changed — because of what didn’t change. At Rabbu, our communication operating rhythm was already in place — the location simply changed from our physical office to Zoom. The unknowns driven by the chaos of the times were difficult to navigate, just like they were and are for all businesses now, but our daily team standup meeting bound our team together and enabled us to iterate quickly and distribute critical updates to the team every single morning. I wrote about the importance of our daily team “standup” in 2019, and I’ve included the original post below, with some updates to reflect new realities in the post-COVID world at Rabbu. As leaders everywhere struggle with decisions on what the future of work looks like for their teams, I thought it was important to resurface this solution that I myself stumbled into in 2015, as I was trying to change how our team at KYCK operated. One morning I saw our software development team doing their own daily standup, which only they did, and I knew I had my answer.

Why should only the development team talk every day?

Real Prioritization. More Transparency. Better communication.

Every weekday morning at 8:15am, our entire team at Rabbu logs in to Zoom. Often a few early attendees are wrapping up small talk — sometimes about their weekend, other times about work — for a brief minute, as everyone sips on their caffeinated cocktail of choice, this is our virtual watercooler. Once everyone is settled, that day’s leader shares his or her screen, and our morning meeting begins.

The format is straightforward: each person reports on one priority for the current day (their “Main Daily Goal”) and updates the team on the status of their previous day’s Main Goal (“Hit”, “Miss”, or “Goal Changed”). The priority isn’t mandated from a manager; each teammate comes up with it individually. We track the priorities and the status updates in StandupPro, which each person updates before the meeting starts. For most teammates, it’s the first thing they do in the morning.

After we report on individual goals, we quickly review key business metrics, we make any necessary company-wide announcements, and we ask if anyone has any questions for the entire group. Then we close the meeting. Occasionally one or two people will linger on the Zoom to continue a conversation related to a question that was asked, getting additional clarity that will help them do their jobs better. 

This daily meeting is simple and quick (always less than 15 minutes), but incredibly effective; it gives full transparency to everyone in the company about the day’s priorities, and it forces every teammate to build every day with intent. In addition to the goals themselves, teammates often get important context about why those items are the most important things to work on, and how daily goals can compound into us achieving our company’s mission. That context gives everyone the holistic perspective they need to make the best decisions they can in their own jobs, which is what allows us to get the most we can out of every teammate. Since people are your biggest asset and your biggest expense, it goes without saying that this is a worthwhile investment to make.

This daily meeting framework is so effective, in fact, that I’ve been running standups like this every day for five years across multiple companies. I’ve done it with 100% co-located teams where everyone is standing around a table (like at Rabbu pre-COVID), and I’ve done it with exclusively remote teams (like at Palmetto Solar, and like at Rabbu now). I’ve done it with companies with less than 15 employees where everyone participates in the meeting together, and I’ve done it with teams that are scaling where we hold this meeting by functional business unit. It’s proven effective with many different types of team setups, and it’s become so important to how we do things at companies that I’ve been a part of that we would feel lost without it. It’s a cornerstone of the operating manual.

When I explain the problems this meeting solves to other business leaders, I’m always met with vigorous nods — they know world-class communication is mission-critical (and hard!), and they know that transparency and alignment are the foundations of the best business teams. They know their team has work to do on those fronts. If they have a hangup with the meeting framework, though, it’s usually this: “Why do you only report on one goal? Our teammates just do too much every day to report on only one thing.” Usually, they say they’ll implement the meeting, but they’ll have people report on multiple goals.

And I get it. That’s true. We’re all busy. We all do a lot, every day. It is hard to pick just one thing. But the fact is that I love this objection. I love it because it allows me to respond with a parry that the business leader already knows: that there is a massive difference between busyness and effectiveness. Most of us understand that, but we don’t have a structure in place to force us to think about that, every day. What really is the most important thing for me to do today? If I could only work for one hour today, what would I do that would meaningfully move us forward? This meeting solves that problem and forms that habit. And it results in true lift.

Your teammates don’t need to know your full to-do list to arrive at real transparency. What you need is to talk every single day, and you need to put structure in place to facilitate that meeting and to force each person to decide what is most important to get done, and what is most important to tell their colleagues what they’re going to do.

So: What’s your only Main Daily Goal for today?

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