It Will Never Work in Theory

The Effects of Stand-Up and Sit-Down Meeting Formats on Meeting Outcomes

Posted Jan 5, 2012 by Jorge Aranda

| Controlled Experiments | Practices |

Allen C. Bluedorn, Daniel B. Turban, and Mary Sue Love. "The Effects of Stand-Up and Sit-Down Meeting Formats on Meeting Outcomes". Journal of Applied Psychology 84(2), 1999.

The effects of meeting format (standing or sitting) on meeting length and the quality of group decision making were investigated by comparing meeting outcomes for 56 five-member groups that conducted meetings in a standing format with 55 five-member groups that conducted meetings in a seated format. Sit-down meetings were 34% longer than stand-up meetings, but they produced no better decisions than stand-up meetings. Significant differences were also obtained for satisfaction with the meeting and task information use during the meeting but not for synergy or commitment to the group's decision. The findings were generally congruent with meeting-management recommendations in the time-management literature, although the lack of a significant difference for decision quality was contrary to theoretical expectations. This contrary finding may have been due to differences between the temporal context in which this study was conducted and those in which other time constraint research has been conducted, thereby revealing a potentially important contingency—temporal context.

If there's one practice that caught on with every software team that calls itself Agile, it's got to be daily stand-up meetings. If you hold your meetings standing up, the argument goes, they will go briskly, which is great because nobody likes meetings that drag on and on, especially if you hold them daily. This paper provides valuable evidence with respect to the efficacy of stand-up meetings: they are significantly shorter than sit-down meetings, and the decisions taken in them are just as good. Their only downside in the experiment is that participants were less satisfied with the meeting than those in sit-down meetings.

These were all 5-person meetings lasting 10-20 minutes and concerning a well-defined problem. The authors warn: "...additional research is needed to determine whether the stand-up meeting can be used for longer meetings dealing with problems that vary in their structure."

(Thanks to Laurent Bossavit for pointing me to this paper. If you know of interesting papers that are relevant for software practitioners, even---or especially---if they're from other disciplines, please send them our way! Also, note that we try to post links to freely downloadable versions of the papers we discuss. Sometimes, as in this case, we found none---but e-mailing the authors and asking nicely usually gets you a copy.)

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