Very often, software development teams (and not only them) run the so-called daily stand-up meetings. These are quick online or offline encounters of the whole team aimed at sharing updates on what everyone has done, what is waiting to be done, and the potential or actual blockers on the way to the ready tasks. This article will briefly overview the key steps of efficient stand-up meetings and their impact on workflow and productivity.
What is a stand-up meeting?
A stand-up meeting is a regular (daily) short meeting of the whole organization/team used for brief reports, bringing together the team, eliminating roadblocks, and growing work efficiency. Later in this article, we will devote some place to various aspects of such meetings: their history, structure, and key components.
Moreover, we will pay the deepest attention to the types of questions for such meetings, their benefits, success recipes — and, last but not least, the top mistakes employers make while conducting Scrum, Agile, or daily stand-up meetings.
What is the purpose of a daily stand-up?
The whole team gathers for quick stand-up meetings to share personal and collective developments or achievements, identify tasks blocking somebody’s workflow, and decide how to move forward with maximum efficiency and no hiccups. Stand-ups are short, so there’s no time for idleness, dozing off, or playing hooky while your team digs into the weekly pile of tasks. One more purpose of the Agile meetings is aligning gradual step-by-step execution with general strategy (frequently the weak point of many organizers and CEOs).
The meetings should be brief and up to the topic, without time-consuming digressions.
Here’s a potential list of questions for self-evaluation (and collective evaluation) on stand-up meetings as an organization tool.
- What tasks are the hottest this day/week?
- What is everyone’s business this day/week?
- Does everyone understand how their tasks/activity correspond with the general strategy of company development this day/week?
- Does everybody in the company bring something to the collective movement?
Now, let’s discuss the possibilities of structuring a daily Scrum meeting. Is there only one option — or are there some variants that can prove efficient for different companies?
What is the structure of a stand-up meeting?
As you already know, an efficient and brief stand-up meeting consists of multiple separate stand-ups where employees answer three key questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What blockers stand in your way?
Let’s scrutinize each of them in more detail.
What did you do yesterday?
Answering this question, people highlight their recent accomplishments and deepen other colleagues’ understanding of their individual working progress. Besides, this question helps determine if there are some potential blockers or if someone in the team can help others reach their working aims.
Here’s an example of the answer:
“Yesterday, I spent the whole day planning our new content strategy together with A and B. We arranged two calls with the marketing department and defined our actual and potential customers’ portraits.”
What will you do today?
Plain and simple: describe your current working plans on a running day. (Of course, they can change along the way. Highlight all the changes tomorrow, answering the previous question — why you did what you did and how it aligns with your team’s overall strategy.)
Here’s an example of the answer of a content specialist:
“Today, I’m gonna have a 1/1 call with my manager, then I will finalize the article I started writing yesterday and finish planning the quarterly roadmap.”
Are there any blockers on your way?
If something hinders you from reaching your daily/weekly aims — highlight the roadblocks, and maybe some of your colleagues will be able to help you.
– Is something wrong on the technical side?
– Are you still waiting for someone’s input or information to get along with the research?
– Do you need someone’s help?
Pen it all down, stand up and speak.
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Useful tips to make your stand-up meeting stellar
Now that we’re done with three basic questions let’s dive further and call attention to probably less obvious tips and advice that will come in handy for everyone participating in or organizing Scrum meetings.
- Value the time. Limit the stand-up duration to 15-20 minutes.
- Respect others. Arrive on time, carefully listen to others, and don’t doze off.
- Bring in the value. Participants should feel the value of the information you provide. How to achieve that? Don’t focus on your collaboration with someone in particular (leave it for 1/1 calls). Try to cover your connections with everyone you interact with and contextualize every piece of data.
- Remember the remote colleagues. If all the company employees have different working modes and some don’t attend scrum meetings in person, don’t forget to allow them to stand up and take the floor.
- Prepare the basis. Spare the rest. Don’t dive into problem-solving: your lengthy elaboration will make the team short of time. Save all the details for some other type of working meeting.
- Conduct separate stand-up calls in different departments. That’s how to make them more aim-focused if your company has grown. A universal daily call can last too long (much longer than 15 minutes), and people will get tired and distracted until they hear relevant information.
- Employ note-taking tools (especially if your calls are online). People seldom remember all the important information from the calls and meetings. You can use some of the online note-taking tools that will cover your back — e.g., Jiminny (it will allow you to record meetings, too) — or note-taking/recording add-ons (Google Note Taker). Bots are perfect for this kind of task too. Don’t forget to distribute the notes afterward.
- Use templates. They help structure your stand-up call information surge.
- Add the list of extra questions to the invitation. If you plan to discuss something beyond the routine, help your team members prepare for it.
What does a good stand-up meeting look like in practice?
Let’s describe an ideal Agile stand-up meeting we’d love to attend or conduct. What are its key traits?
- Nicely structured. Thought-over efficient format, pre-planned agenda, concise reports.
- Time-sparing. Everyone respects the time of the rest of the team by not digressing into unnecessary nuances and focusing only on the report’s key points instead.
- Honest. The daily stand-up atmosphere should empower coworkers to honestly share their views, plans, strengths, and weaknesses without being afraid to be corrected or to lose the “score points” in the managers’ eyes.
- Productivity-boosting. Pre-planning and sharing your milestones improves employees’ productivity.
- Empowering. No one likes to feel invisible. Daily stand-ups are perfect for voicing your concerns and achievements in public.
- Devoid of micromanagement. Don’t let any sole manager be in the spotlight, pushing the team into the shadows.
The following part of our article will be devoted to more general advice about running daily scrum meetings.
How to run a daily stand-up meeting?
1. Find the right time and be consistent with it.
Commitment and consistency are second to none in the implementation of stand-up meetings. Before including them in everyone’s schedule, do a timetable research (or ask the HR department to do it), find out the most convenient time slots (conduct a survey, perhaps), and stick the daily meeting to a consistent and repeatable time slot. Such a strategy isn’t just fruitful for overall discipline — it also allows everyone to prepare for meetings more easily.
2. Ensure general participation.
Keeping meetings consistent make it easy for everyone to attend, and it’s important everyone is present so that the entire team is on the same page.
3. Let everyone participate effortlessly.
Start and end your meetings together (they are short for a reason). Ensure participation for both offline and online colleagues. Check the connection quality in advance.
4. Let everyone speak for an equal amount of time.
The stand-up meeting attendees should be brief and have an equal number of minutes of fame. If someone has trouble timing their speeches, you can assign a timer person (or turn on a real/virtual timer).
5. Moderators are essential.
The leader of a stand-up meeting is in charge of all the formalities and changes — that’s the person making decisions on amending the duration, controlling the flow, curtailing the lengthy speakers, and arranging all the participants in the timetable. If yours is a Scrum-based company, the daily meetings are the Scrum master’s business. Otherwise, it can be CEO or another manager who’s in charge.
Common mistakes to avoid during your daily stand-ups
The problems can differ, from basic timing miscalculations to convoluted authority issues. Perhaps everyone, at least once in their professional career, felt that some meeting was a waste of time. Multiple teams can feel that the daily meeting devoted to the best cause of identifying and avoiding blockers has become a kind of blocker itself.
What could have been the underlying causes of such a feeling?
- Constant overtime (either due to poor planning or because of lengthy uncontrolled stand-ups/detours);
- Irrelevant updates (or relevant for a selected group only);
- Mutating into a status meeting with overstretched narratives about each and every task in the sprint;
- Perceiving the stand-up meeting as a water cooler catch-up (with chit-chatting and small talk instead of status updates);
- Solving problems during a 15-minute stand-up meeting (that’s just unacceptable for this format: postpone all the problem-solving for 1/1 meetings, share just the status updates);
- Sidetracking from the 3 questions paradigm (15 minutes aren’t enough for anything extra);
- Providing negative feedback (stand-up calls should be a positive, encouraging experience, so leave all the problems with particular team members for private conversations afterward).
Written dailies: one more option
What can you do if all your team members reside in different countries and time zones? Naturally, it will be difficult for them to designate a time slot that’ll suit everyone: somebody’s productive morning will surely overlap with another one’s late evening power nap. For such asynchronous teams, the option of written daily stand-ups can provide a much-needed salvation. Create a specific communication channel devoted to stand-ups (e.g., a Slack channel) and ask everyone to share their plans, issues, and blockers. If you’re a team manager, it will be your responsibility to make sure no one misses their dailies. Fortunately, Slack channels let you tag people (useful for spotting those who play hooky, mentioning collaborators or blockers) and conduct a date-based or keyword-based search.
If your team works remotely, don’t forget about one of the cornerstones for efficient workflow — that’s team building I’m talking about. Otherwise, you’ll pay a fortune for daily expenses (office rent, stationery, catering, heat/electricity, salaries) without the all-important feeling of success. Daily stand-ups are just one of many possible team-building techniques for remote work. Look for new ways to unite your dispersed squad — and all its members will be eternally grateful (and productive!).