As practitioners of agile methodologies, we here at Merlion Solutions, LLC hold a daily stand up with our team members. Before we could implement these meetings, a time to hold them had to be chosen and so we sought out the answer to; when is the best time to hold a stand-up meeting? For our deliberation we considered two factors; what kind of meeting is a “stand-up,” and what time of day is best for accomplishing the goals of that kind of meeting?
What is a stand-up?
A stand-up is a daily organizational meeting in which the participants literally stand rather than sit for the duration of the meeting. The relative discomfort of standing is supposed to reinforce the idea that the meeting is to be short (10-15 minutes). Typically, each team member answers a few questions to let everyone know how they are progressing through their assigned tasks. Questions such as;
- What have you done?
- What are you doing?
- What do you plan to do next?
- Are there any impediments or “blockers” in your way?
Once each team member has taken their turn answering these questions the meeting is called to a close. The ultimate goal of these meetings is to quickly give each team member a look at the bigger picture. This way when everyone goes back to development work, they know how their tasks fit in with progress on the project as a whole. If anyone is stuck on a task, then the entire team has the opportunity to help them get past that impediment and continue to steadily make progress.
When are our brains ready?
With that in mind then, when is the best time to hold that kind of meeting? Well as you know our brains are not perfect machines, our neurological responses fluctuate throughout the day. Thankfully this an area of research that has been and continues to be thoroughly investigated. So when should meetings be held; in the morning, the evening, or the afternoon?
Classical corporate logic dictates that the mornings are the best time to hold organizational meetings. It is easy to see the reasoning behind this, that way everyone is on the same page at the very start of the day. However, some studies indicate that holding meetings in the morning could be wasting an important window of worker productivity. A Japanese study had workers go into work and take a stress test, once in the morning and once in the evening and then measured the cortisol response after both tests. The study demonstrated that the cortisol response was stronger in the morning than the evening. Cortisol is an important stress hormone as it helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, so that in a stressful situation you have the energy and presence of mind to find a solution. Furthermore, cortisol helps return the body to normal operation after the stressor is removed. This means that in terms of productivity the morning should be reserved for stressful tasks, as we have the best chance of settling back down and returning to application development afterwards.
If the morning isn’t the best time for an organizational meeting, then perhaps the evening or end of day would be optimal. After all, if we can’t start of the day on the same page at least we will end each day and be ready for the next day together. Well a study conducted by the WhenIsGood web application investigating worker availability says otherwise. The study found that as the end of the day approaches, worker availability sharply declines. It is likely that this decline occurs because workers fear that in a later meeting there may not be enough time to cover the important topics, or even worse the meeting may run past the end of the work day. While considering the short duration of a stand-up meeting these fears are reduced. Having the stand-up at the end of the day does hinder the second function of a stand-up which is to solve impediments as a team.
The afternoon, specifically around 3pm for a standard 9am-5:30pm work day is the best time to hold a stand-up meeting. That is the time which the study by WhenIsGood indicates your team is most likely to be available. In addition, this gives your team a chance to knock out “blockers” before the end of the day. Remember it is important to consider the goals of a meeting, as well as the fluctuations in cognitive performance people experience throughout the day when choosing a time for your meetings.
- Yamanaka, Yujiro, et al. “Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Differentially Responses to Morning and Evening Psychological Stress in Healthy Subjects.” Neuropsychopharmacology Reports, 27 Nov. 2018. Wiley Online Library, doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/npr2.
- When Is Good, October 2009 WWP-10-2009/s49495-34-2