In agile development, daily standup meetings are key to keeping project cycles moving. Daily goals need to be flexible throughout any project due to changing information and priorities, so it’s vital to have frequent and efficient communication as a team. Done right, standups can boost productivity by making communication effective and meetings more efficient. Done wrong, they can turn into a frivolous waste of time.
The key value of a standup is to ensure that progress is being made in all aspects of a team’s larger goal. It creates an opportunity for team members responsible for design, engineering, and product to double-check that everyone’s on the same page, as well as collaborate together as necessary.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to run an effective standup, including how to run them remotely (which we’ve all been doing quite a lot of post-COVID). We’ll also cover some tools, like Status Hero, that can help make your standups a breeze.
What Is a Daily Standup?
A daily stand-up is a time-boxed meeting to provide short and concise updates for the entire team. As the name suggests, it is held everyday. The general structure of a standup meeting is:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- Are there any blockers or challenges to finish up my work?
The answers to these questions should be brief and should measure how everyone is making progress against the current sprint goals. The singular focus of this ritual is to keep the team focused on executing their goals. As stated in the original framework of scrumguide:
“The purpose of the daily scrum is to inspect progress toward the sprint goal and adapt the sprint backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work. The daily scrum is a 15-minute event for the developers of the scrum team.”
The key points here are to promote quick decision-making and conduct effective communication. But standups can derail if they are not carried out mindfully.
Also note, the daily standup is a similar meeting to the daily scrum. It’s quite frequent that the terms are used interchangeably within technology companies.
Pitfalls of Standups
Let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls to avoid when having a standup.
Standups Are Not Brainstorming Sessions
If a fifteen-minute meeting turns into an hour-long brainstorming session, you’ve got a problem. Scrum masters should not allow team members to go off on a tangent regarding their tasks. It is okay to mention if a ticket is blocked due to xyz, but going into details should be prevented. Instead team members should reach out to individuals or discuss issues during a critique session.
Standups Are Not for Stakeholders
Standups are for everyone on the team to provide frequent updates on the progress being made against the current sprint goals, not to update management or impress stakeholders. This is an opportunity to foster transparency that benefits the immediate team, not the stakeholders.
Daily Standups Are Not to Close Tickets
There shouldn’t be pressure to deliver a closed ticket every day. There might be days members of your team simply don’t have any updates. Scrum masters should use best judgment to ensure everyone is moving forward, and let team members decide what updates are meaningful or not to the rest of their team.
Strategies to Run Standups Smoothly
Effective standups start with the right expectations. A team should have a general consensus on what is working and what is not. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to ensure standups are carried out smoothly.
Agree on the Definition of Done
While standups aren’t the place to officially close tickets, it is a place to mention what team members will be wrapping up, or are close to wrapping up. To ensure that team members have clarity around where they’re at with their own goals, it’s important that everyone understands what done actually means. This requires:
- well-written acceptance criteria (AC)
- appropriate description of the task with added context
- thorough testing (unit, visual, and regression)
- passing of quality tests (for example, sonar)
- approval from at least one designer and one developer.
On my team, code cannot be merged until I get these two approvals. This ensures thoroughness of completing a task from engineering and design. If there is a scope creep, a follow-up ticket is created and put in the backlog. In pull request reviews, a newly minted ticket would be linked to ensure issues will be addressed.
These best practices allowed everyone to understand the definition of done on my team.
Velocity of a task is an often-used metric, but it can be misleading. If every standup’s velocity is being measured against the previous day’s velocity, it doesn’t always leave room for exploration. Everyone’s just focused on getting the work out the door.
Instead, encourage your team to collaborate across disciplines. Provide opportunities (ie, leave room in the schedule) for engineers, designers, and product managers to discuss projects and trouble-shoot. It’s difficult to find creative, out-of-the-box solutions if everyone is head-down focused on their own to-do list and not taking time to consider how it all fits together for the larger goal. But if engineering, design, and product are all in harmony, your team is more likely to ship quality features.
Don’t Be Shackled to Daily Standups
Allow teams to break and bend rules within certain parameters. One process should not rule the team.
On my team, I experienced two wonderful product managers. They both brought their own processes and allowed us to grow depending on the workload and goals of the team. Doing daily standups for the sake of doing ceremonies may seem productive, but it’s not.
For example, if half the team is out for the day for whatever reason, you may decide it’s a better use of everyone else’s time to simply scrap the meeting altogether. Or, while standups are usually the first thing in a business day, your team may operate better with an afternoon standup, or something more asynchronous. Usually scrum masters lead the meeting, but my team has been experimenting with switching out between team members. This gives everyone an opportunity to stay engaged.
According to scrum principles:
“Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team.”
Effective Remote Standups
The pandemic has modified the genetics of the work environment, especially when everyone is located in different time zones. The negative side of working remotely is trying to juggle home life with work life. The positive side has been that companies are embracing nontraditional formats of working remotely.
Setting hard lines between personal and professional life has never been so important. This is critical for mental health and creative output. Standups should be given the same boundaries. Just because they’re remote doesn’t mean they can go on forever. They should be treated just as they are in office settings.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways to carry out standups successfully while working remotely:
- Ensure the team agrees upon a mutual time that works for everyone.
- If even one person is remote, then everyone should attend the standup via video link. Having a split of some members on a screen and some members in the office is unfair to the remote members.
- Go person by person just as you would do in person. On my team, we go in alphabetical order during the first half of the week and reverse alphabetical order during the second half of the week. Make your standups fun!
- Be respectful of everyone’s time. Scrum masters should ensure standups are time bounded (fifteen to thirty minutes).
- Consider tools like Status Hero to facilitate collecting updates and automating ticket level info. This can free up more time in your standups to discuss blockers rather than simply reading out data.
For more details on running effective remote team standup meetings, check out our guide.
Embracing asynchronous communication can be a huge leverage for your team. It encourages employees to self-manage and conduct effective communication—especially if your team feels the fatigue of meetings. In cases like these, asynchronous tools can benefit the entire team.
Status Hero works here as well, turning standups to autopilot. Everyone gets a daily email or a chat notification to fill out their daily updates. These are also customizable by time zone so no one on the team is being interrupted during off-hours. A daily report, which is the compilation of everyone’s updates, is sent out to all members once everyone’s completed their update. Team members who are blocked can request help from a specific person within the tool.
And all of this is done without requiring face-to-face interaction or having to find a meeting slot that works for everyone.
The benefits of asynchronous communication and tools work on trust. If your team doesn’t require micromanagement, an asynchronous standup is a great way to conduct daily check-ins.
When your standup is timeboxed by a team leader, has the processes and expectations clearly defined, and isn’t shackled to arbitrary rituals, it can be an incredibly effective tool for your team, both in-office or remote. But if you’re getting sidetracked with brainstorming, trying to appease stakeholders, or focusing on closing tickets, standups are going to be frustrating and ineffective.
Whether you’re trying to streamline synchronous or asynchronous standups, consider adding a tool like Status Hero to your routine. By collecting project data, team member status updates, and check-ins, Status Hero makes it easy for the entire team to be collaborative and communicative, both in person or remotely.