When I first started working for my company, we had recently doubled in size over the previous year. The partners recognized that being larger made it more difficult for individuals to know what was happening across different parts of the company.
Our company found a solution: Have a company-wide stand up. In the stand up, the partners would provide small announcements (major announcements were reserved for staff meetings), then an individual from each team in the company would provide a report on what the team accomplished the previous month.
We have been doing these “monthly scrums” (this is how we describe these meetings – even though it is somewhat misleading) since October 2013. Since then I have noticed four benefits of doing monthly stand ups at our company:
- We are able to maintain a “flat” structure. This is accomplished in two ways:
- Everyone knows what is happening in all parts of the company: typically, the individuals aware of all company dealings are the ones near the top. With a monthly scrum, title does not determine what one is allowed to know. While certain details may be withheld to maintain confidentiality, all are given glimpses into what happens.
- In our standup, there are no pedestals or chairs or platforms to differentiate between titles. Partners, developers, product owners, software testers, etc. are all standing in the same circle at the same level.
- We are held accountable as teams to the company: While stand ups in Scrum emphasize accountability from a team member to the rest of the team, our monthly scrums hold the teams accountable to the company.
- We are aware of who makes our company great: Making the whole company stand in a staggered circle is like putting individual puzzle pieces together to form the big picture. Very little can beat the experience of seeing everyone in one room with a common purpose – to make our company great.
- We pull people outside of their team environments: All the ceremonies of Scrum are geared towards the team in a single project. Our monthly stand ups show individuals that we are part of a greater team – the company. While we try to maximize success within our project, we often forget that project success affects company success. Monthly stand ups bring this back into our perspective.
When we initially started, it was supposed to be a weekly scrum. However, we elected to make it a monthly affair to avoid decreasing its value. Because we stand up, the meetings never go beyond twenty minutes (which seems long, but is not bad for a company-wide stand up). Afterwards, the company feeds us – providing yet another opportunity for us to connect with others outside of our team.
Some of you might question what the difference is between a monthly stand up and staff meeting. As I mentioned before, staff meetings are reserved for policy changes and major announcements the company may have. Monthly stand ups mirror daily stand ups – but at the company level. We keep our meeting short and do it solely for the sake of connecting the company.
If you are looking at making your company more personal, I suggest experimenting with the monthly stand up. This solution works best with smaller companies (we employ ~60 people) to avoid having long stand ups. Let me know how your experience goes and if you have other ideas to share.