Sunrise Meetings: Create Effective Routines To Make Your Business Run Like Clockwork (The Business Productivity Series) by Giles Johnston Last annotated on May 14, 2015
Introduction: What is a Sunrise Meeting?
Firstly, a business that runs like clockwork experiences fewer surprises. Tasks run to a schedule and you can set your watch by them. These routines keep the entire business working in the way it was intended.
It is my experience that disciplined routines can make a huge impact on the way a business performs. Routines need to be implemented from the position of properly understanding how your business processes are meant to work and this is the first port of call in this book.
I have seen businesses that operate in ‘organized chaos’ move to progressively improving levels of performance via Sunrise Meetings. A Sunrise Meeting is a great way to capture the effective routines in your business and keep them in place.
A business that is working the way it was intended has a firm grip on the standards it needs to work to. These aren’t just external accreditations but the ways of working that keep the business going.
Sunrise Meeting approach can help you to increase the performance of your business.
The Sunrise Meeting approach is one way to bring together the necessary routines, standards and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can help you to run your business effectively.
Benefits Of A Disciplined Approach To Working
First of all there is the peace of mind that comes with routine and discipline.
When routines are defined properly then your teams can work more harmoniously.
Routines can help you to become more productive.
Sunrise Meeting Examples
The main issue that this business faced was the lack of clarity about what needed to be done when.
Through tiny meetings and small bursts of activity the admin backlog disappeared (in only ten minutes a day of concentrated effort for two weeks) and consequently their cash flow improved.
At the shift crossover, at midday, was when this business held their Sunrise Meeting.
This business opted for a fortnightly review meeting as it better reflected their project lead times.
Principles To Consider
Disciplines can decay
ensure that your tasks are reviewed regularly and disciplines can be restored quickly if they do slip.
People forget what's important
Having a reminder to help people do the right things can make a big difference.
Complexity kills efficiency and effectiveness
Little and often beats big and infrequent
After all it is easier to relax the frequency of a meeting schedule than to tighten it up. Our routines can often benefit from smaller tasks being looked at more frequently.
PART ONE – Sunrise Meeting
Step 1: Map Your Process
it is a good idea to construct a quick process map of how your business works to quickly define what the key tasks are. It should be that each step in the process can be defined by a single word, or short sentence. It is the essence of the step that I want you to capture. You will capture the key tasks as part of this step in the exercise. The tasks must directly support the process, not be tasks that keep people busy!
- Create a simple process map, like the one on the next page, for a business process of your choice. Keep the steps at a high level.
- When all of the steps have been listed add in the handful of main tasks that need to happen in order for the process step to ‘complete’.
- Any issues that are generated as the map is completed should be noted for your continuous improvement activities (or possibly your issues board).
you recall the ‘jar of rocks’ time management story you will relate to this.
creating your top level process map you are attempting to (re-)identify the ‘big rocks’, which can then be used to increase your effectiveness.
2: What's Not Happening?
next step is to build upon the top level map you created in step 1 and add in the other ‘irritations’ that affect day to day business performance. I want you to capture in this step of the exercise is a list of tasks that aren’t happening. You know that the core tasks listed on your top level map need to happen and now you need to include the other items that don’t happen as well. clarity over which tasks aren't happening is essential so that you can correct the situation.
- Create a table with three headings; task, frequency, notes.
- List the tasks that aren’t happening, their appropriate frequency and any additional notes.
- Try to be as exhaustive as possible, considering supporting areas of the business that affect the business process you have chosen to review.
there may be tasks spread out over days, weeks and months. Try to capture all of your tasks across these different timescales.
Step 3: Shortlist Of Tasks To Be Regimented
After completing the previous step of this exercise you may have a really large list of tasks that don't happen, but should. By prioritizing the actions you will take there will be less to do immediately and therefore make the transition easier. If you are struggling to choose which items are going to be selected ask yourself if the task is linked to any others in the list. By rationalizing your list you give yourself the opportunity of an easier change with the potential for expansion if appropriate.
- Review your list of tasks that don’t happen and prioritize their importance.
- Eliminate tasks from your list if they are symptomatic of other items in the list that aren’t happening currently.
- Select the tasks you want to include in your daily Sunrise Meetings.
Step 4: What Needs To Happen Each Day?
You should have a combined list of key tasks from your business process to consider and a number of prioritised tasks that are not happening the way that they should. It is a good opportunity to capture these items in one place, which is the purpose of this step. By duplicating the format below (including yearly items) you can quickly create your time table. This fundamentally is the routine for your business, and from which we can create the Sunrise Meeting and other supporting meetings.
- Convert your lists of key process tasks and other outstanding tasks into a timetable using the above format (or create your own).
- Re-review the time scales to see if you have missed any tasks from the first attempt.
Step 5: Designing Your Sunrise Meeting
The purpose of the Sunrise Meeting is to get your team together near to the start of the working day. At this meeting a short series of questions are asked and any corrective actions are planned. The meeting should be aligned with the performance objectives you are working toward and should only last a few minutes. Any issues that get raised during the meeting need to be captured, monitored and closed out at the subsequent meetings.
Your job is to convert the daily routines and key process activities into a logical sequence of checks that can form the agenda for your Sunrise Meeting. Getting the right people together to discuss these points also needs to be considered. You may wish to include additional people who do not directly report to you, but who can answer the above questions.
- Review your daily routines and the key process activities and create a series of simple questions.
- Review the questions and see if you can adjust the questions so that you can elicit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
- Determine who the right people are to take part in this short meeting, including people who are possibly not direct reports.
- Choose a meeting area that is open and preferably one that contains a whiteboard to capture any issues that arise from the meeting itself.
PART TWO – Improving Your Sunrise Meeting Results
The First Sunrise Meeting
When you hold your first Sunrise Meeting it will most likely take too long. Accepting that the meeting will evolve in terms of both its duration and its effectiveness is all I ask for the short term. It is clear that the better prepared people are when attending meetings the quicker the meeting can be. This goes for the Sunrise Meeting as well as other meetings. Being clear with everyone about the duration of the meeting is vital to keeping the sessions short. Long meetings are often far less productive than short, well planned, meetings. To ensure that everyone understands the importance of a Sunrise Meeting it is imperative that the meeting takes place consistently. Every day the meeting must be run and the agenda followed. It needs to become a habit and so if you are the person who is going to run the meeting then you need to plan in advance who will run it in your absence (holidays etc...).
Starting on time is another strategy that I urge you to use. The Sunrise Meeting is focused on bringing a more systematic and organized approach to running the operational side of your business.
Waiting for people to turn up is frankly unacceptable. If people are going to turn up late then they should be reminded firmly that lateness is not the standard you are striving for.
Finally, make the meetings count. Most people who have been told they have to go to a new regular meeting will be sceptical of it producing results. Sunrise Meetings can be as much about the style of delivery as the content.
- Review the planned participants for the Sunrise meeting and decide on what style you need to have in order to run an effective meeting.
- Make it clear to all that the meetings happen every day at the same time and that they start on time.
- Monitor the response in the business to this way of regulating operational activities, possibly via your KPIs.
- Adjust the agenda if you think it necessary, based on your observations from the above point.
Can We Go Home Yet?
Quite often the working day can be interrupted with issues. Sunset Meetings can be used in two main ways. The first way, to support the development of habits, is as a short term arrangement. If the Sunrise Meeting is the ‘take off’ then the Sunset Meeting is the landing. Whilst the Sunrise Meeting is scheduled (usually) for the start of the working day, the Sunset Meeting is often scheduled for near to the working day, but not right at the end. Often the mistakes and problems from one shift are left for the other one to deal with!
In my opinion, the Sunset Meeting should have an even shorter agenda and a quicker pace than the Sunrise Meeting. of running through the same agenda it should simply check of the actions that were agreed at the Sunrise Meeting. Going back to the timing of the Sunset Meeting, if there are still actions outstanding then there should be enough time left for the people who need to take action to do so. I’ll leave you to make up your mind as to whether you think there is merit in running a Sunset Meeting in your business, either to form habits or to close out the working day / shift.
- Review your Sunrise Meeting agenda and create a cut down version.
- Choose a time in the working day to run your Sunset Meeting, where your team will have enough time to undertake the outstanding actions.
- Ask yourself the question ‘does this agenda support team working and getting the business on track?’
- Hold your first Sunset Meeting, explaining the purpose you are introducing it for, and test your agenda.
- Monitor the rate of closeout of actions and adjust your Sunset Meeting agenda as appropriate.
Other Routine Meetings
There are various levels of review in any business and the Sunrise Meeting is definitely at the operational level.
Having these different levels of meeting at your disposal will help you have even greater control over your business. In summary, these levels are:
- Operational: Did we pull the levers today?
- Tactical: Have we selected the right levers to use?
- Strategic: What are the right levers we need to create?
‘Projects Review’. - ‘Contract Review’. - Management reviews - ‘process improvement’ meeting
- List out the management meetings that you have in your business currently.
- Identify the missing items (things that don’t get done, but should) and list them against the appropriate meeting.
- Find the standard agenda for each meeting (if there isn’t one write one).
- Add the missing items to the agenda at the appropriate place.
- Step back from each meeting and clarify the value in having the meeting in the first place. If the value is poor ask yourself if you could replace the meeting with some other approach (e.g. an email that is circulated through a specific path of recipients, adding comments each step of the way, or splitting the meeting elements into other meetings).
- Ensure each meeting captures actions for subsequent follow up.
- Review the time required for each meeting and attempt to reduce it.
- Ensure that each meeting starts on time and finishes on time.
- Keep side issues out of the meeting; let the right people deal with them in the right way.
Meetings only add value to a business when decisions are made; please bear that in mind when reviewing yours.
- Review your routines and split your non Sunrise Meeting items up into logical groups. Add these items to the relevant existing meeting agendas.
- Consider a weekly capacity review / MPS approach to help regulate the levels of resource you require.
If you have complex projects, or are juggling varying capacity levels, then consider the use of a contract review meeting to help smooth out capacity and load your business appropriately.
- Use the tips above to trim your existing meetings.
- Consider a specific process improvement meeting to help move the business forward and reduce the overall level of fire fighting that you have to do in your business.
- Ensure that your rota of meetings add value to the business.
Piggybacking Existing Meetings
put a short written statement at the top of the standard meeting agenda of what the purpose of the meeting is. The first way is to create a micro version of the meeting, including only the absolutely essential elements. As the meeting develops, generating results for the business, then the additional elements can be brought in to the mix. The second way to use the tiny version first method is to take the idea of only having one or two items but instead of having a separate meeting you attach them to another meeting’s agenda. This of course requires that your additional agenda items are short to discuss and don’t bloat the other meeting. purpose of this book is not to take up more of your business time with meetings; it is to help your business to become more effective through a combination of routines and short meetings.
- Add a purpose statement to your standard agendas.
- Establish the ‘micro’ version of your meetings if you are short for time.
- Consider piggy backing your essential meeting points to another (relevant) meeting if you can’t get the right people together for a separate meeting.
- Develop the agenda points over time and see if they require a meeting of their own (if you have tried the piggy backing approach).
The Issues Board
The first reason to have an issues board is to stop people having to remember what the issues are in the business. From a ‘servant leadership’ perspective the issues board is an opportunity for you, as a manager, to clear obstacles from your team’s path. When the ownership of a board is not clear it does not get used properly, which in turn can make the board irrelevant to the business and the meeting attendees. When an item is placed on the board it is vital that the board is kept up to date and that progress is visible. Deciding on how long an issue can live for on the board is a good consideration. If the issue that isn’t moving isn’t simple and / or low cost to resolve then it may be worth breaking down the actions required into smaller packets. Rules about what goes onto the board should also be made clear. This point is similar to the need to keep the board clean and tidy so that it is treated in the way that it needs to be.
- Include an ‘issues’ whiteboard in the area where you will hold your Sunrise Meetings.
- Determine who will ‘own’ the board and what the rules are for including items on the issues board.
- If you own the board then find ways to proactively ‘kick down the locked doors’ and support your team via this board.
- Determine if a shelf life for issues is appropriate. If it is then ensure that old items are flushed from your board periodically.
- Consider breaking down more complicated and time consuming issues into smaller pieces to help your team schedule them more effectively into their diaries.
- Use root cause analysis whenever possible to ensure that you are solving the right issue and not just putting sticking plasters on problems.
- Determine an effective board layout to facilitate the resolution of the issues.
The 5 Why Approach
Don't try and solve a symptom, solve a root cause.
- Try out the 5 Why approach with your team.
- Get the hang of asking good questions in order to make this approach effective.
- Use it prior to raising issues for the issues board at your Sunrise Meeting.
Time Tables And Flexibility
In addition to the tasks that need to be performed you can also add in any reference to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that may be relevant. Doing the fun stuff first and then playing catch up is not the correct sequence! Discipline, not rigidity, is the focus here. The times in the timetable don’t have to be prescribed if they are not relevant.
- Implement timetables for staff that need guidance with managing their own time.
- Link the timetabled action to SOPs if available.
- Use the timetable as a training aid for new members of staff.
- Be flexible with the timetables to get the right balance between internal on time delivery of tasks and allowing individuals to work independently.
Use Meetings To Reboot Your Team
This is just like a business; we all need to find ways to re-boot our teams so that they work as effectively as possible.
Is There Anything Missing?
- Put a reminder in your diary to review your meetings rota after 1 month, 3 months and 6 months.
- Challenge the meetings; are they adding value to the business?
- Are the right people attending the meetings?
- Are the right topics being reviewed?
At each review look for opportunities to improve the meetings themselves.
Short And Sweet - 'Doing The Tasks In Record Time' Challenge
Competition is greatest when it is against ourselves, and how we deliver our products and services is a great thing to improve, so let's take the opportunity. Be tough on your routines. Can you do them faster and better? Work with your team to periodically review the routine elements of your business and find improved methods and processes that you can test.
- Change processes in a controlled manner. Agree the changes first and don’t just change methods without testing them, agreeing them and updating your instructions / SOPs.
Policing – Routines Are Not A Magic Bullet!
Choose who will take ownership of which parts of the business. Use this opportunity to link certain senior members of the business with various key parts of the business (if they aren’t already). Don't do the checking from the comfort of your office though - go to the right place and see it in action. Agree on which senior managers should be linked to what processes (from an ‘auditing’ perspective).
- Don’t just rely on KPI data, get out there and go and see what is happening.
- Arm yourself with a handful of questions, if it is you doing the review, so that you can find out if the causes in place are giving you the right effects.
- Use the other routine meetings to make sure that any changes required are implemented.
The main knock on effect of establishing disciplines is that small disciplines grow over time and standards of working improve.