Standup meetings are one example of a daily ritual that can make — or break — a team’s effectiveness over time.
As American philosopher Will Durant once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” This has important implications for all teams that run daily stand-ups. While inefficient stand-ups can limit a team’s ability to accomplish their goals, effective daily stand-ups empower teams with a strong foundation for long-term success.
In this article, we share best practices for running daily standup meetings, tips for avoiding common standup struggles, and templates and tools to help you build better standup habits on your team today. Let’s dive in.
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.
Some organizations use the term “daily scrum meeting” to refer to the same concept, or to describe development team-only meetings that cover the current sprint backlog with no product owner participation. But usually, “daily scrum” and “daily standup” are synonymous terms. In each case, 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 what outstanding blockers and questions need to be addressed.
Why do we need standup meetings?
The main reason we need standups is that, unfortunately – and commonly — only about 8% of leaders are good at aligning strategy with execution. This ends up creating a 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?
Recurring standup meetings give teams a focused way to align around what is happening in the business, plan daily work accordingly, and remove blockers.
What does an effective standup meeting look like?
The agenda of a standup meeting is designed to be short, and — ideally — it’s baked deeply into the process of the organization: everyone arrives at a certain time, the standup begins at a certain time, and the standup lasts 15 minutes or less.
There are three cornerstone questions that typically make up an effective standup or scrum meeting:
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:
What did you do yesterday? “Yesterday, I focused on finalizing the specs for the Fletcher project.”
What will you do today? “Today, I am continuing to support Briana from dev on making sure the Fletcher project is moving forward.”
What blockers stand in your way? “Briana and I could use another set of eyes on the technical brief I’ve drafted.”
Quick and concise. Move to the next attendee.
While the three cornerstone questions help give structure and purpose to any standup, the following tips can be useful for team leaders looking for more ways to keep standups as efficient and effective as possible:
Time it right — Keep the standup to 15 minutes maximum.
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.
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.
Go to the source — Having a source of truth where team members share blockers, plans, and works in progress before a daily standup (or even in place of one) can help teams spend synchronous time on what matters most. Technology tools like Range enable teams to connect in context by capturing the full scope of what and how everyone is doing.
Run async standups with Range
Use our Team Standup check-in template to help your team make (and share) daily progress without spending more time than you need to in meetings.
Common mistakes made during daily standups and scrum meetings
In addition to understanding what effective standup meetings look like, it is important to note what standups are not.
One of the most common mistakes made during a daily standup meeting is turning it into a status meeting. Ideally, standup meetings are planning meetings with short, focused agendas. They are not designed to be an overview of every single thing people plan to do that day. They are not a time for listing off meetings and appointments. Most daily standups go off the rails when they become a mishmash of everyone’s status for the workday.
Pro tip: If you encounter an organization doing hour-long daily standups, which we have seen on many occasions, those meetings are neither standups nor agile.
Some of the other biggest offenses you can commit during your standups include:
Being late — Everyone’s time is valuable, so treat it as such.
Sitting down — Don’t get comfortable. As we said, this should be a short, snappy meeting.
Rambling — Be as clear and concise as possible, remaining mindful of the limited time allotted.
Not listening — It’s important everyone focuses during these meetings, as you might have the knowledge or ability to unblock a teammate.
Having 1:1 conversations – Standups are not designed for back-and-forth conversation with one other team member you need something from. (That can happen after the standup meeting).
Repeating tasks — Refrain from stating the same tasks every day of a given week. If progress is not being made, investigate why that is.
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 — and particularly over the past year. 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 meeting agenda template
Here is a great meeting template that you can follow for your daily standup:
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.
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.
Have fewer meetings & waste less time with async check-ins
Creating a written record of the 3 core standup questions
Integrate tools from across your workflow, including Github, Google Docs, Google calendar, and more
Add tasks from your project management tools
Logging progress and accomplishments
Easily running virtual standups
Range will help your team plan and share daily work so that everyone remains in sync and aware of what’s happening. By offering smart suggestions from its integrations with tools like GitHub and Asana, Range makes it easier for your entire team to collect and share work from all your tools. You can also raise flags (e.g., blockers) within the product, which directs team members to items that need attention.
If you’ve been experiencing challenges with your scrum or daily standup meeting — or if you’re simply looking to test a new approach — create a free Range workspace today and be on your way to improving how your team runs daily stand-up meetings.