Daily Standups

Agile development groups have what is called a daily scrum, a short meeting often done daily and while standing – a “standup” meeting. It’s meant to be a quick checkin for the team with discussion topics kept at a very high level. People gather in a central area and stand as each member answers three simple questions which I’ll expand on below. The team stands so as to not get too comfortable and drag the meeting on. It’s really not intended to be your typical meeting.

Scrum Standups

Standup meetings aren’t just for development groups.

I’ve suggested having a daily standup to many functional groups and watched as they achieved greater teamwork and success. A daily scrum meeting works because it facilitates communication and priorities — it isn’t about programming or development at all. If you have a small (10 members or less) team, you’ll really be able to make use of this strategy.

Stick to the three questions of a daily standup.

Everyone’s checkin should be quick – the whole meeting should not last more than 5 to 10 minutes, tops. Keep everyone’s focus on these three questions:

  1. What did you complete yesterday?
  2. What do you plan (or need) to do today?
  3. Are you blocked? (Do you need help?)

Focus on those three questions only and don’t let anyone on the team get down into the weeds. Sometimes it helps to skip the first question about what got done yesterday or to instead only highlight what plans got changed yesterday.

Don’t try to problem solve an issue during the meeting. Rather, if someone is blocked and has an issue, note who needs to be a part of the discussion to help resolve the problem and setup a time to work together at the end of the meeting or right after. Keep things high-level.

Virtual meetings may be even better than ones done face-to-face.

Given that the nature of work has changed greatly with more people working remotely, or that teams are not all in the same workspace, you should not feel that you can only do a daily standup if you’re all in the same physical office. If you are all in the same workspace, then do that but don’t take this as a requirement. It’s not. In fact, you might have better results with a virtual meeting; a threaded message, not a conference call.

A virtual daily standup meeting can be achieved using tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Groups, or even just an email list. Email or message boards work especially well if you have team members who are in different time zones or have flexible work hours. Everyone still answers the three questions above, they just do so in their own time. With the right platform, one can also tag teammates with a question or issue when blocked, making it clear to all that this smaller group will need to meet later.

Another benefit to the virtual standup path is that you now have a written history to refer to and look back upon. This has been extremely helpful to me and many of the teams I’ve worked with and may be why I like the virtual path better than the real-time physical one.

Ideally, if you are doing a physical meeting, a project manager or team lead will keep notes from the standup in a transparent, shareable way, too. This combines many of the benefits found in both methods.

The daily standup is good for team building and communication. Best of all, it allows you to know quickly when priorities are not being addressed or blocked. You can then make a course correction or add resources to help further progress.

Whether you’ve been struggling to get your team all on the same page, or to complete an epic project, or you simply want to make your team stronger and more productive, the daily standup is an excellent and simple process change you can implement quickly.

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