What is a standup meeting?
In essence: short, daily meetings. But why do you need those?
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:
- 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 a look at the current sprint backlog.
In reality, though, 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 vs. what can wait, and any outstanding blockers and questions are addressed.
Download the free guide to team questions for Engineering Managers
The daily standup meeting is not a status meeting
Standup meeting agendas are 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, that is not an organization actually doing “standup meetings,” nor is it an agile one.
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.) They are not a broad dumping ground for ideas and calendar moments.
Rather, standup meetings are designed as a focused way to align a team around what is happening in the business. To simplify the standup meeting to its essential core: It is a planning meeting, not a status meeting. Most daily standup meeting agendas go off the rails when they become a mishmash of everyone’s status for the workday.
What does an effective standup meeting agenda look like?
The answer to this question varies by organization, but in general, there are three cornerstone questions that make up a scrum meeting or daily standup meeting agenda:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What blockers stand in your way?
Here’s an example of how one might respond to these questions:
- “Yesterday, I focused on getting the specs for the Fletcher project.”
- “Today, I am continuing to support Ethan from dev on making sure the Fletcher project is moving forward.”
- “Ethan and I could use another set of eyes on the technical brief I’ve drafted”
Quick and concise. Move to the next person.
5 common mistakes made during standup meetings
There are any number of mistakes, with some of the bigger offenses being:
- Rambling on—Be as clear and concise as possible, remaining mindful of the limited time allotted.
- Sitting down—Don’t get comfortable. As we said, this should be a short, snappy meeting.
- Not listening—It’s important everyone focuses during these meetings, as you might have the knowledge or ability to unblock a teammate.
- Repeating tasks—Refrain from stating the same tasks every day of a given week. If progress is not being made, investigate why that is.
- Being late—Everyone’s time is valuable, so treat it as such. These 15 minutes or less matter.
Daily standup meetings work best when they are baked deeply into the process of the organization: Everyone arrives at a certain time, they commence at a certain time, and they last 15 minutes or less. After the daily standup meeting is done, broader issues and calendar discussions can happen between individuals before they return to their work areas.
There are two basic, overarching rules that can help you avoid some of the common mistakes people make on a daily standup meeting agenda:
- 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 daily standup 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 is still somewhat nascent in many companies.
That said, if you are trying to engage remote employees in the daily standup meeting agenda, some best practices include:
- Solid videoconferencing—Make sure everyone can see and hear each other. One of the most frustrating things for people in daily standups is when a remote employee needs to talk to someone quickly (usually about blockers) and can’t locate them in the room. “Is Jessica there? Jessica?” When this repeatedly happens, it decreases the meeting’s efficiency.
- Easy access—There should be a calendar invite for the daily standup meeting and it should always have the conferencing link in it, so that anyone—especially remote workers and those traveling for work that week—can pop into the invite on any day and easily join the daily standup.
- Ask for feedback—It’s always important to ask for remote employee feedback on everything, so that they feel tethered to the bigger team. But ask them what is good, and not so good, about the daily standup meeting agenda. Start with how the technology designed to connect remote employees is working, then move to the agenda itself: Is it effective? Are we staying within time? Are people saying valuable things about how work is progressing?
The daily standup meeting agenda template
Here is a great template you can follow for your daily standup meeting agenda:
- Start time—Set a start time based on the local time for the office where your daily 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:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What blockers stand in your way?
- End—Close out the 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 calls on remote team members to contribute at a certain point in the meeting (beginning, middle, end).
- 15 minutes maximum
Every month, the host of the daily standup—typically an account or project manager, although role title varies—should meet with senior leaders about the pros and cons of how the daily standup meeting agenda has been working out. Solicit feedback and try to improve the process and the agenda for the benefit of everyone.
How to fix your broken standup meetings
- Logging accomplishments
- Easily running virtual standups
- Identifying blockers
Range offers smart suggestion from the integrations with different tools, like Github and Asana, to make it easier for a team to collect and share work from all the various tools that are being used. You can also raise flags (i.e. blockers) within the product, which directs team members to items they need attention.
Overall, you can use Range to actually reduce the number of in-person daily standup meetings that need to happen. You can do it all within Range, and save time for people to have those 1-on-1 discussions and tangents that always seem to derail the actual daily standup meeting agenda.
Get your scrum or daily 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. Start your free trial of Range and begin improving how your team runs standup meetings today.
And check out our Guide to Standup Meetings to learn more about the ins and outs of standups, and how to get them right for your team.