How To Make the Most of Every Daily Standup Meeting

Engage and empower your team through productive standup meetings.

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Standup meetings are a fantastic tool to keep your team informed and on the same page. These meetings allow each team member to share what they've been working on, any impediments they've faced, and their plans for the day or week ahead.

By meeting regularly, everyone on the team gains a deeper understanding of the successes and challenges encountered, which leads to greater productivity and effectiveness.

If you're interested in learning how to make your standup meetings more effective and engaging, you've come to the right place!

What is a standup meeting?

A standup meeting is a brief check-in where team members provide updates on their work progress and any obstacles they face. The goal is to ensure everyone is aligned and on the same page, enabling the team to work together more effectively and efficiently.

Standup meetings are agile ceremonies, commonly used in agile methodologies like scrum, but they can be adapted to any team working on a project together. By keeping everyone informed and addressing issues early on, standups help teams stay organized and increase productivity.

Two misconceptions about standup meetings

  1. Some believe standups are only relevant to agile methodologies or the scrum framework. However, standups are widely discussed in various publications and can benefit any team, regardless of their approach. For example, Patrick Lencioni's book Death by Meeting offers practical advice on how leaders can create better meeting structures, prevent dysfunctional behavior among team members, and foster greater engagement within the team.
  2. Some new team members may think standups are just a way to report progress to their manager or project manager. However, the primary purpose of a daily standup is to facilitate communication and collaboration among team members. During the standup, team members share their progress and any roadblocks they face, providing insight into how the team can better support each other. The manager's role in a daily standup meeting is to facilitate the discussion, offer guidance, and help the entire team stay on track with their goals.

By holding regular standups, teams can work together more effectively and stay aligned toward their objectives.

The key to better standups: An effective meeting agenda

An effective agenda is critical to running more productive standup meetings. Setting a time limit for each team member to share their updates keeps the focus on the task at hand, helping to resolve blockers and problems quickly.

Typically, the agenda will cover three key questions:

  1. What did you accomplish yesterday?
  2. What do you plan to accomplish today?
  3. What is standing in the way of progress (blockers)?

Each team member provides an update, in turn answering each standup question, with little commentary or discussion until everyone has shared.

After this, the team can collaborate and problem-solve, connecting 1:1 or in a small group to resolve identified blockers. Some teams like to adjust the questions to fit their needs, such as discussing the most important accomplishments or goals since the last meeting. Some teams that have practiced standups for a while like to change the questions slightly. For example, in teams I have been on that are less connected (such as a leadership team), the group meets regularly and shares:

  1. What's the most important thing you have accomplished since we last met?
  2. What is the most important thing you are working to accomplish now?
  3. What do you need from this group to achieve the next set of goals along your path?

Regardless of the questions, a compelling agenda is an excellent tool for keeping standups on track and productive.

Avoid common standup meeting mistakes

For effective and productive standup meetings, it's crucial to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Failing to follow an agenda: Without a consistent agenda, team members may get off-topic or start talking about unrelated topics. This wastes valuable time and can be frustrating for team members looking for a quick update. To avoid this mistake, ensure an agenda for every standup meeting, and stick to it. The facilitator/scrum master should be the one to keep the discussion on track and redirect the conversation when necessary.
  • Letting one person talk the whole time: Standup meetings are designed to be quick updates, not lengthy discussions. If one team member monopolizes the conversation, it can be frustrating for others who may not get a chance to share their updates within 15 minutes. To avoid this mistake, encourage team members to keep their updates short and to the point. If one person continuously runs over their allotted time or covers unimportant topics, consider re-framing the agenda to prioritize the most critical updates.
  • Not following up after the meeting: Standup meetings are only effective if they lead to action. After the meeting, schedule follow-up tasks, action items, and sessions to ensure that everyone gets what they need to stay on track as a group. This includes following up on any promises made during the meeting and checking in on progress toward goals. If you're using a resource planning software like Float, you can easily see what everyone's working on and their availability to schedule work the team decided on.
  • Canceling the meeting if the manager or facilitator can't make it: The standup is for the benefit of the team, not the manager, team leader, or facilitator. Canceling the meeting because one person can't make it can disrupt the team's progress and lead to missed opportunities to uncover and resolve blockers. Instead, encourage the team to continue with the meeting even if the leader is away, and empower team members to take on facilitation responsibilities if necessary.

Seven best practices to facilitate more effective standup meetings

Starting a standup meeting is easy, but keeping it focused and effective over time can be challenging. That's why having a facilitator who can guide the project team and ensure everyone stays on track is essential.

Here are seven best practices for facilitating a more effective standup meeting:

1. Provide a clear agenda, start and end time, and expectations for participation

This ensures that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect from the standup meeting. A clear agenda will help keep the discussion on track and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to share their updates. Setting a specific start and end time will also help keep the meeting brief and focused.

2. Ask open-ended questions to generate open discussion and foster team engagement

Instead of simply asking for updates on what team members are working on, asking open-ended questions can help generate more productive discussion and engagement among team members. For example, instead of asking, "What did you accomplish yesterday?" you might ask, "What progress did you make on your current project?"

3. Establish ground rules for respect and communication among team members

Setting ground rules for communication can help ensure that everyone feels comfortable participating and that the discussion remains productive and respectful. This might include guidelines on speaking time, listening to others, and keeping the discussion focused on relevant topics.

4. Start on time, end on time, and keep the meeting focused on the agenda topics

Starting and ending the meeting on time helps to ensure that everyone can plan their schedules accordingly and avoid disruptions to their workday. Keeping the meeting focused on the agenda topics also helps to ensure that the discussion is productive and relevant to the team's work.

5. Allow each member to speak without interruption

Allowing team members to communicate without disruption helps to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas without being talked over or drowned out by others. This can be particularly challenging in virtual meetings with a remote team, so it's essential to set clear expectations and guidelines for participation.

For example, I often give a thumbs up (👍) on others' accomplishments rather than taking audio airspace to say, "Woo-hoo."

6. Determine how the next person to talk is identified

It can be awkward to wait for someone to self-select to speak next. This helps to ensure that the discussion flows smoothly and everyone has an opportunity to participate. It might involve setting up a specific order for team members to speak or using a round-robin format where each person takes a turn sharing their updates.

7. Avoid taking notes on the standup proceedings

Standup meetings are primarily for the team's benefit, so taking detailed notes is often unnecessary and can distract from the discussion. Instead, it's better to focus on actively participating in the debate and using the information shared to move the team's work forward.

Utilize best practices for more effective standup meetings

Effective standup meetings can significantly impact agile team productivity and progress.

By following the best practices outlined above, you can create an environment where team members feel engaged and motivated and everyone works towards a common goal.  With clear expectations, ground rules, and a consistent agenda, you can help ensure that every daily scrum meeting or other standup meeting is productive, focused, and engaging.

Remember, the success of standup meetings depends on the commitment and participation of everyone on the team, so keep an open mind and be willing to adjust your approach as needed to ensure that your standup meetings serve your team's needs.

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