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Daily standup: The 411 on Scrum meetings

A daily standup is a regularly scheduled meeting used to help teams be proactive and identify potential progress blockers during projects.

Jun 5, 2023 • 7 Minute Read

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Scheduling weekly 30-to-60-minute meetings can be difficult—nearly impossible at times. And if used incorrectly, meetings of this length can even feel wasteful, impractical, or unnecessary. Enter the daily standup: a quick, consistent, and informative briefing meant to replace bulky, difficult-to-schedule meetings.

But wouldn’t a daily meeting be even more impractical? Actually, no. When formatted and used correctly, a daily standup allows team members to be more productive, efficient, and informed. Plus, they’re always scheduled for the same time and place every day!

Our guide acknowledges the power of the daily standup, the best ways to run a standup meeting, and their benefits and challenges. 

What is a standup meeting?

A standup meeting is a short, regular meeting where team members discuss their daily progress and potential progress blockers. Initially, participants would stand while these meetings were in session—hence, a “standup” meeting—but this requirement has since been retired to keep meetings inclusive of all individuals. 

While the structure of your meeting can vary, there are three daily standup questions we recommend using to keep your team organized:

  1. What work did you do yesterday?

  2. What work will you do today?

  3. Is there anything blocking your progress?

If you don’t use these questions to guide a standup meeting, you’ll at least want to discuss past, current, and future assignments and critical issues in each meeting. 

What is the purpose of a daily standup?

The purpose of a daily standup is for all team members to communicate project progress and identify where potential project blockers may appear. Clear and consistent communication about team progress and setbacks keeps everyone accountable for their tasks and decreases potential mistakes, holdups, and frustrations.

Daily Scrum vs. standup

While it’s acceptable to use daily Scrum and standup meetings interchangeably, there are also a few differences between the two. For example, daily Scrum meetings are usually used to help the Scrum team create an actionable project plan for the next day, while standups are designed to allow team members to report their progress and roadblocks on previous and current projects.

However, there are similarities between standups and daily Scrum meetings. Both can include members outside a project’s core team, but they must remain as observers rather than participants. Both meetings also adhere to strict time guidelines and help members find solutions for potential progress blockers.

Who should attend?

Who should attend a daily standup meeting is unique to each situation, but typically these meetings include a project or company’s core team—product and project owners, developers, and the meeting’s leader. 

Daily standup participants can change depending on the project or product. Sometimes these meetings may include project managers, writers, designers, and high-level managers. Use your discretion when inviting members to your standup, but include those who may provide valuable feedback or gain valuable insight by attending.

Daily standup agenda

Since most daily standup meetings are 15 minutes or less, a repeatable agenda can help team members prepare for and stay on track during each meeting. You can separate your agenda into three parts:

  1. Icebreaker: Start your meeting with a team-building activity, fun question, or another icebreaker game. You may not need to include an icebreaker during every standup.

  2. Project updates: After opening the meeting, ask team members to provide timely updates and progress blockers to the whole team.

  3. Action items: Use the remaining meeting time to brainstorm solutions, assign urgent tasks, and—if needed—schedule secondary meetings to discuss problems and reports in depth.

Daily standup format: 5 structures to try

Even with a repeatable agenda, it can be difficult to encourage daily standup participants to engage with each other. Implement one of these meeting structures to alleviate stress, motivate speakers, and keep meetings moving forward.

  1. Round robin: Probably one of the simplest meeting forms, round robins occur when participants gather and share their progress reports in a circle.

  2. Walking the board: For teams using Scrum or Kanban boards, this method walks through each card and task on a project board. Begin with the newest or oldest card and work forward or backward from there. 

  3. Popcorn: In this standup structure, participants end their turn by calling on the next person to speak. This process works incredibly well for remote and distributed teams.

  4. Token: Similar to using a talking stick, the token structure asks participants to pass an object from speaker to speaker. The individual in possession of the object holds the meeting floor.

  5. Cards: In this structure, participants randomly select a numbered card when entering their meeting space. The Scrum Master then leads the conversation in numerical order.

Daily standup best practices

Even short, refined meetings need to observe some common standards to be as efficient and supportive as possible. While creating a stable, functional daily standup may take some time and practice, these best practices can help you and your team create effective meetings.

Assign a Scrum Master

A Scrum Master is responsible for the progress of a Scrum team. These managers lead meetings and keep daily standups on track by:

  • Keeping meetings as close to 15 minutes as possible

  • Starting and stopping meetings at predetermined times

  • Addressing the whole team rather than individuals

  • Redirecting less valuable conversations 

  • Setting up meetings to include remote or distributed employees

  • Instituting asynchronous communication spaces for continued conversations and problem-solving

Scrum Masters are essential to daily standups and should be assigned before regular meetings begin. These individuals should be well-versed in project and crisis management, understand a project’s goals, and have strong problem-solving and organizational skills.

Schedule follow-ups

Don’t be afraid to put a conversation on hold or schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss blocker solutions in depth. A standup meeting should be short and sweet. Any other conversations or responses outside the three daily standup questions should be dealt with at another time.

Present concise yet detailed descriptions

Even though your standup meeting should be short, don’t sacrifice quality. As a Scrum Master or participant, you should give your team members details about your progress blockers and upcoming tasks. However, it’s important only to include necessary information during these meetings. If you need to present additional information, findings, or solutions, set up a follow-up meeting with relevant team members.

Only allow one speaker at a time

No matter what daily standup format you use, make sure you only have one speaker at a time. Give each participant a turn to speak and create action items covering each progress blocker at the end of your meeting. Consider using a speaking token and encourage active listening so everyone feels heard and valued.  

Provide incentives

With so much happening in the workplace, it can be easy to forget about short meetings—no matter how important they are, daily standups often fall to the bottom of the priority list. Consider offering incentives to individuals who show up on time and participate. Some simple incentives include:

  • Give candy or treats to the first team member to arrive.

  • Ask late participants to put a dollar in a penalty box. Consider donating these funds to a charity or nonprofit.

  • Offer longer lunch breaks, early releases, or late start times to team members who show up on time.

  • Provide a large team reward when everyone gathers on time.

Set meetings for productive times

Make meeting times attainable for everyone, but prioritize times during the day when team members may be more alert and productive. Participants gathering for early morning or late afternoon meetings may feel less energized or be less willing to speak openly. You may need to conduct a team survey to identify the best time to hold your daily standup.  

9 benefits of daily standup meetings

No matter your format or agenda, daily standup meetings allow teams to work together to solve issues before they arise, as well as other benefits like:

  1. Alignment: Team members focus on specific tasks and project-oriented goals.

  2. Collaboration: Every participant helps identify solutions to progress blockers.

  3. Communication: Speakers inform participants about their progress and ask questions about project tasks.

  4. Consistency: Members are required to show up on time every day. 

  5. Engagement: Every project participant is expected to answer the three questions and assist in brainstorms. 

  6. Efficiency: In 15 minutes, teams and leaders are informed about past and current project progress and assigned action items.

  7. Flexibility: Standups can occur at any time, include anyone necessary, and adapt to include hybrid and remote team members.

  8. Accountability: Participants hold each other accountable for their tasks, progress, and possible roadblocks.

  9. Solutions: Brainstorms allow team members to prepare for potential issues and identify possible solutions.

Challenges in a standup meeting

While there are plenty of benefits associated with daily standup meetings, there are also a few challenges that can persist:

  • Topic irrelevance: Topics other than a meeting’s three questions and team action items can cause unnecessary and irrelevant tangents.

  • Excessive meeting length: Team members may describe projects in too much detail, which can extend meeting times. 

  • Inconsistent meeting times: Members may find it difficult to attend or remember meetings if times change daily or weekly.

  • Disengaged listeners: Participants who don’t engage with or tune out peer reports can cause disruptions. Consider rotating facilitators to keep everyone engaged with the meeting’s contents.

  • Late or skipped meetings: Team members may not prioritize standups, which can lead to late appearances and skipped meetings.

Often, these challenges can be solved with open communication and clearly defined expectations. Consider holding your standups at consistent times with repeatable agendas so your team members understand the meeting’s structure, which can help alleviate various issues.

Daily standup for remote teams

Even with hybrid or remote teams, it’s important to prioritize team meetings and daily standups for everyone involved. While meetings can be difficult to schedule with time zone differences, these tips for distributed standups can help team members and Scrum Masters schedule effective meetings: 

  • Use a speaking list: Provide team members with a repeatable speaking list. Instead of a physical talking token, this list indicates who should speak and when.

  • Turn cameras on: If possible, ask participants to turn their video cameras on to help keep team members focused and on task.

  • Start on time: Respect every team member’s time by starting meetings on time, even if others are late.

  • Provide meeting previews: Send team members a meeting preview before the start time so they can review a project’s tasks and progress.

  • Enforce time limits: Set meeting and speaking time limits to keep participants on task.

  • Permit asynchronous meetings: Allow participants to engage in daily standup meetings asynchronously through communication software like Slack, Teams, or email.

  • Document conversations: Record standup meetings or ask a participant to keep detailed notes that can be shared with the whole team.

Consider attaching video conference links to your meeting invites and stay flexible during the initial planning phase. It may also be possible to digitally screen share so everyone can view a project’s task board or project management system during your daily standups.

Use Pluralsight Flow to run efficient and effective daily standups

Daily standups are crucial to many projects. If run incorrectly or inefficiently, they can actually hinder progress more than help—even if participants show up on time with talking points prepared.

When you invest in Pluralsight Flow, you also invest in team collaboration, task and project completion, and workflow optimization. No matter where your team is or the complexity of your projects, our tool can enhance your operations, reduce confusion, improve efficiency, and accelerate execution.

For more information on how Flow can optimize your workflows and boost productivity, schedule a demo with our team today.

Flow Transformation Team

Flow T.

Our engineering transformation experts are here to help you and your team embrace The Flow transformation process by establishing a foundation, demonstrating impact, and strategically growing your team in the most effective and efficient way possible.

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