Daily standup meetings are a very popular format in agile teams. When done well, they are a great toolkit to align the team and remove roadblocks. But if you are not careful, these meetings can be a big waste of time. Soon the team gets bored of the cadence and engagement tapers off. This guide is a summary of my 12+ years of leading teams (both remote and in-office).
What is the purpose of daily standup meeting
It serves a four fold purpose:
- Remove roadblocks that your team members have
- Give visibility on what everybody’s working on
- Align everyone on the team’s goal on a regular basis
- Increase team bonding and help them get to know each other
Whatever format, cadence or meeting style you choose. These basic purposes of a standup meeting must be fulfilled.
Tips on how to run a daily standup
Think of this in three different phases: before the meeting (especially if you are a new team leader), during the standup meeting and post the standup. I am putting a detailed checklist that you can use to run your standup meetings.
A - Before the standup meeting
#1 Send an invite email
Context setting is important. Why does the team need a standup meeting? How should they run it? And what are its goals? Use this invite email to inform the team about a new cadence. Use the template below:
Subject: Starting a new daily standup cadence
Hi marketing team
I am thinking of starting a new daily standup meeting everyday at 8 AM. This can be a good way for us to discuss our projects, highlight areas where you are stuck and ask for help. What do you think?
I have seen successful remote teams use this really well to achieve their goals. A quick note - this is NOT a status update meeting. We will be using Kaapi to run our standup meetings; which means we log our status updates here. Asynchronously. And meet quickly only to discuss blockers. Or maybe brainstorm ideas ..
Any tips on how to do this well based on your past experience?
#2 Important: Collect status updates in advance
This is the most important tip to ensure your standup meetings are effective. It is a WASTE OF TIME to make everyone read out their status updates in the meeting. These should be logged by everyone in advance, before the meeting. We use Kaapi (of course, dogfooding!) to remind the team to fill their daily updates in advance.
Which frees up a lot of time, and people can focus on important discussion items. Like clearing their doubts, and discussing issues.
#3 How long should daily standup be? How frequent and what is the ideal format
Well it really depends on your team, but this is what I would recommend:
- Keep it to a max of 20 minutes. Anything more than that is a huge waste of time for everyone!
- You can set it up for evenings (sunset huddles) or mornings (sunrise huddles) depending on the team’s preference.
- You can experiment with the right daily standup meeting template. The standard one is usually:
- “What did you work on yesterday?”
- “What are your plans for today?”
- “Do you need any help? Any blockers?”
B - During the meeting
#1 Stop discussions from getting sidetracked
This is a common issue. People are discussing point A, and then suddenly the discussion goes to point B. By the time anybody’s realised, 10 minutes are already gone. Tangential brainstorming is healthy, but the standup meeting is not a place for it. You should:
- Gently remind the team members that this is not part of today’s agenda
- Volunteer / encourage them to setup a different call to discuss this topic
Here is a helpful, non rude way to do this -
“Hi John & Jane! This is a great discussion. And an important point to resolve. But for the sake of time and keeping the meeting effective, I would recommend that you set up a different call.
How about today afternoon? You can update the team about it’s conclusion over email”
#2 Highlight blockers & important issues
We use Kaapi’s customisation feature to include a special blockers section. This means that people can easily highlight the tasks where they need help. While running your standup meeting, you can use those sections as the agenda items.
#3 Document properly
The person who runs the standup meeting should ensure that they are making notes. Especially action items pending. Or new decisions taken. This can be done in a separate Google Doc or the standup meetings tool of your choice.
C - Post the meeting
You are almost there, but not done yet. Take a few meetings and summarise the meeting. Share those notes with the team over email and follow up with them for any pending action items.
Bonus - How make daily standups fun & interesting
Are your daily standups getting too boring? And people are dropping off / switching off their cameras? Use these ideas to make them fun again:
- Fun Icebreakers - break the ice by asking some fun Icebreaker questions to everyone. Something as simple and silly as “Do you like Pineapple on your Pizza” can put a smile on everyone’s face. And raise the energy of the room.
- Team building games - Simple games like two truths and a lie, or quick Trivia are a great way to have fun
- Rotate the meeting owner - Daily standup meetings don't have to be run only by the team leader. Or the scrum master. Rotate that responsibility. This also ensures that everyone learns important meeting management skills.