Do it better: Your guide to running more effective daily standup meetings

7 things you need to know to run more effective standup meetings with your team

August 2, 2019

What is a standup meeting?

It’s probably safe to say that, for standups, most of us have the same definition: short, synchronous meetings where team members come together, review progress, and triage new issues. But why do we need them?

Unfortunately, and commonly, only about 8% of leaders are good at aligning strategy with execution. This ends up creating an often messy situation around priorities, where questions abound, such as:

  • What exactly needs to be worked on?
  • What is everyone else working on?
  • Do we understand where we’re going?
  • Are people “rowing in the same direction?”
  • What’s the broader strategy and how does that look at the task-execution level?

In order to get teams on the same page, various models have been developed over the past 10-20 years: the standup meeting and the scrum meeting. In reality, these are usually synonymous terms; often, teams will call their daily standup their “daily scrum.” If you want an extra degree of nuance into this discussion, one of the semantic differences in some organizations is that daily scrums are development team only, with no product owner participation and they look at the current sprint backlog.

In reality, the terms mean similar things: The goal is to get people on the same page for that day, so there is alignment around who is doing what, what is a priority versus what can wait, and any outstanding blockers and questions are addressed.

Learn about Range for async team updates

The purpose of a daily standup is not a status meeting

The agenda of a standup meeting is designed to be short; ideally, it’s the same time each day and lasts about 15 minutes.

Pro tip: If you encounter an organization doing hour-long daily standups, which we at Range have seen on many occasions, those meetings are neither standups nor agile.

That brings up an important point about what standup meetings are not. Standup meetings are not a listing of every single thing people plan to do that day. They are not a listing of meetings and appointments. They are not a chance to have a back-and-forth conversation with one other team member you need something from. (That can happen after the standup meeting.)

Rather, standup meetings are designed as a focused way to align a team around what is happening in the business. They are a planning meeting, not a status meeting. Most daily standups go off the rails when they become a mishmash of everyone’s status for the workday.

What does an effective standup meeting look like?

The answer to this question varies by organization, but in general, there are three cornerstone questions that make up a standup or scrum meeting:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What blockers stand in your way?

Here’s an example of how one might respond to these questions:

  1. “Yesterday, I focused on finalizing the specs for the Fletcher project.”
  2. “Today, I am continuing to support Briana from dev on making sure the Fletcher project is moving forward.”
  3. “Briana and I could use another set of eyes on the technical brief I’ve drafted.”

Quick and concise. Move to the next attendee.

Common mistakes made during daily standups and scrum meetings

If and when you’re back, co-located in an office with your team, some of the bigger offenses you can commit include:

  1. Rambling — Be as clear and concise as possible, remaining mindful of the limited time allotted.
  2. Sitting down — Don’t get comfortable. As we said, this should be a short, snappy meeting.
  3. Not listening — It’s important everyone focuses during these meetings, as you might have the knowledge or ability to unblock a teammate.
  4. Repeating tasks — Refrain from stating the same tasks every day of a given week. If progress is not being made, investigate why that is.
  5. Being late — Everyone’s time is valuable, so treat it as such. Keep the standup to 15 minutes or less.

Daily standup meetings work best when they are baked deeply into the process of the organization: Everyone arrives at a certain time, they begin at a certain time, and they last 15 minutes or less. If your team is working in the same office, broader issues and calendar discussions can happen between individuals before they return to their work areas after the standup is done.

Here are two basic rules that can help you avoid those common pitfalls that cause standups to be ineffective:

  • Be professional — This covers your arrival time, listening to colleagues, and standing up for the meeting.
  • Be valuable — Everything you say should be valuable to a majority, if not the entirety, of the people participating in the daily standup. If you are exclusively talking to one other person or about yourself, that is not broadly valuable and those conversations can easily happen after the meeting.

How to run an effective standup meeting with a remote team

This is admittedly a challenge. While organizations have made leaps and bounds here in the past decade, overall remote buy-in to strategy, daily work, and culture are still somewhat nascent in many companies.

That said, if you are trying to engage remote team members or a hybrid team in a daily stand-up, remember the following:

  • Solid videoconferencing — Make sure everyone can see and hear each other. One of the most frustrating things for people during a scrum meeting or standup is when remote attendees need to talk to someone quickly (usually about blockers) and can’t locate them in the room. “Is Jesse there? Jesse?” When this repeatedly happens, it decreases the meeting’s efficiency.
  • Easy access — There should be a calendar invite for the stand-up meeting and it should always have the conferencing link in it, so that anyone (especially remote workers) can pop into the invite on any day and easily join the session.
  • Ask for feedback — It’s always important to ask for remote employee feedback on everything so that they feel tethered to the bigger team. Ask them what is good, and not so good, about the meeting. Start with how the technology designed to connect distributed team members is working, then move to the meeting itself: Is it effective? Are people saying valuable things about how work is progressing?

The daily standup agenda template

Here is a great template you can follow for your daily standup agenda:

  • Start time — Set a start time based on the local time for the office where your standup emanates from.
  • Brief physical activity (30 seconds) — This is entirely optional, of course, but it can get the blood moving for people before they level-set their task work. Some organizations have embraced this and it can help the meeting flow better and faster. Give jumping jacks or a yoga pose a try.
  • Begin — Get in your huddle and select the first person. This can be the person who entered the meeting room last or the person closest to the remote technology/videoconference.
  • Answer the 3 questions — With a time limit of 30-60 seconds, each team member should answer the following questions: (1) What did you do yesterday? (2) What will you do today? (3) What blockers stand in your way?
  • End — Close out the daily meeting with a team clap, cheer, or reminder of your company’s mission.

To make sure your whole team leaves each standup meeting aligned and focused, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Call “Tangent!” — Everyone should be empowered to call “Tangent!” to break up a 1-on-1 that’s not valuable for the whole team, or to redirect someone listing every meeting they have that day.
  • Involve remote employees — This will vary based on conference room layout and who began the meeting, but remote teammates need a dedicated slice of the overall 15 minutes. Whoever leads the meeting (your scrum master) calls on remote team members to contribute at a certain point in the meeting.
  • 15 minutes maximum

Every month, the host of the daily standup — typically an account or project manager — should meet with senior leaders about what’s working well and not so well with the meeting. Solicit feedback and try to improve the process and the agenda for the benefit of everyone.

How to fix your broken standup meetings

We’ve talked before about how standups break down as teams grow in size. Check-ins in Range, which helps with daily standups, allows for:

  • Creating a written record of the 3 core standup questions
  • Logging progress and accomplishments
  • Easily running virtual standups
  • Identifying blockers

Range offers smart suggestions from the integrations with different tools, like GitHub and Asana, to make it easier for entire teams to collect and share work from all the various tools that are being used. You can also raise flags (e.g., blockers) within the product, which directs team members to items that need attention.

Overall, you can use Range to actually reduce the number of in-person standup and scrum meetings. You can do it all within Range, and save time for attendees to have those 1-on-1 discussions and tangents that always seem to derail the meeting.

Get your standup back on track with Range

Growth is good, but it can make knowing what your team is working on a serious challenge. Range will help your team plan and share daily Check-ins so that everyone remains in sync and aware of what’s happening.

So, if you’ve been experiencing challenges with your scrum or daily standup meeting — or if you’re simply looking to try a new approach — try us out and let us know what you think. You can learn more about how Range supports effective standups, create a free workspace, and be on your way to improving how your team runs daily stand-up meetings today.

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Move status updates out of your daily standup and make meetings more productive with Check-ins. Create a free workspace today.

Daily standup meetings: How to run effective team standup meetings
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