We all dread long and boring meetings and tend to avoid them. They impact productivity and add no value. That's why this article discusses how three simple questions can make your meetings short and to the point and increase your team's productivity and commitment.
Find out how daily standup meetings can connect your teams every day to set the context for the day through knowing who is doing what, priorities versus what can wait, and what outstanding obstacles and questions need to be addressed.
This article will cover the following:
1. The origin of daily standups and their purpose
2. How to run standup meetings
3. The why behind the three questions
4. Best practices for standup meetings
5. Running virtual standup meetings for a remote/hybrid team
Want a quick summary to the article? Inside the article, you will find a free, editable standup meeting agenda template, which you can customize according to your needs. The template also summarizes tips on meeting details, meeting objectives, number of attendees, and best practices.
The origin of standup meetings
Jeff Sutherland, Founder and Chairman at Scrum, Inc., explains in this post how standup meetings came to be.
Briefly, Jeff and his team of computer programmers wanted to know how the best teams operated. So, they investigated literature and found a paper on a software corporation project, where one million lines of software code had been created.
These lines of code took thirty-one months and eight people to produce. This means that each team member produced one thousand lines of code each week. And that’s the fastest of any team on record. The team linked their success to daily meetings.
Jeff adopted the idea of daily meetings, but he came up with his own version that includes three core points as follows. (1) The meeting was held at the same time every day, and everyone had to be there. (2) The meeting couldn’t last more than fifteen minutes. (3) Everyone had to actively participate. To make everyone participate, in his meetings, Jeff asked people to stand up, so they’d actively talk and listen and keep the meetings short.
When he applied his version of daily standups, his team finished a month's worth of work in only a week, and that’s when he knew he had something good going on.
What is a daily standup meeting?
Standup meetings go by several names: standups, daily standup meetings, daily scrums, daily huddles, scrum meetings, daily check-ins, morning meetings, and morning roll calls.
Daily scrums, a standup meeting synonym, are popular in software companies and other businesses that use Agile development processes, like Scrum and Kanban. However, different teams (e.g., marketing, project management, and project development) adopt them as well because they’re an efficient way to share updates, stay on the same page, and overcome roadblocks.
As the name implies, standup meetings are meetings with people standing up, as opposed to sitting, to keep the meetings short.
Standups are held in the same place and at the same time each day, ideally, in the morning. They are usually no more than 15 minutes to avoid lengthy discussion and keep the conversation brisk but to the point.
What is the purpose of daily standup meetings?
Have you witnessed a huddle in a football game? In sports, a team may gather, usually in a tight circle, to strategize, motivate themselves, or celebrate a victory.
Much like a huddle, standup meetings provide a quick feedback loop. According to The Scrum Guide, "daily scrums improve communications, identify impediments, promote quick decision-making, and consequently eliminate the need for other meetings."
In other words, the goal of standup meetings is to set the context for the day through knowing who is doing what, priorities versus what can wait, and what outstanding obstacles and questions need to be addressed. Team members go over tasks that are completed, in progress, or about to be started.
Here are some of the benefits this quick feedback loop can provide:
1. Eliminating unnecessarily long meetings
In fast-paced companies, communicating effectively can be tough for teams.
Instead of communicating feedback for others during long boring meetings, standups offer a quick check-in for the team. Daily standups allow the team to communicate, be transparent about their work, and shed light on any roadblocks they might be experiencing for getting the job done well.
2. A reminder that the team is working towards a shared goal
When every team member shares how the work is progressing, the whole team will get the picture and know that each person is working for the same goal.
3. Improving communication across the company
One of the best things about standups is that any person can show up and get an idea about what is going on in your department. For example, the CEO might set in to hear about any obstacles your team may be facing. New project managers may show up during standups to learn more about serval processes across the company.
Inviting other departments to your daily standup meetings can help everyone expand their understanding and perception of others and know how their roles come together.
How to run a daily standup meeting?
If you think about it, an average workday has two major processes: production (working on assigned tasks) and coordination (being aware of who's working on what). So, in short, work processes focus on strategy and execution.
It may come as a surprise to know that only 8% of the top leaders are effective at both strategy and execution. The downside of this is confusion about priorities, and questions arise, such as where do we need to witness progress? Who is working on what? Are we all on the same page? Are we working towards the same goal? Is the broader strategy clear? Is the task-execution plan clear?
Standup meetings allow teams to align on three key points: what needs to be completed, planning workday accordingly, and pinpointing roadblocks.
It is important to know that the standup meetings are not done for the purpose of solving problems. When issues are raised, they are usually dealt with immediately after the meeting by the relevant people.
The agenda of the standup meeting is designed to be short. During the daily standup meeting, each team member answers the following three questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are you facing any obstacles?
The three standup questions
The standup questions provide insights that most teams may overlook. So, let's break them down.
1. What did you do yesterday?
Relaying information and sharing recent accomplishments are what make strong teams. The question gives a sense of progress to all team members. The answers might be something like this:
- Published a new blog post
- Shared new posts on our social media account
- Contacted an industry expert for an interview
- Scheduled a meeting with the marketing department on our new product
2. What will you do today?
This question serves two purposes: (1) aligning the group with what everyone is doing, giving awareness and transparency, and (2) creating accountability (it is more likely that you deliver on a commitment when sharing it with others).
If a content writer stands up and says, "today, I will finish writing my article," everyone expects that, in tomorrow's standup meeting, they will update the team about whether they finished it. Standups emphasize the significance of the commitments made by the team members towards one another. Each team member knows if they didn't get the job done, this will impact the progress of the whole team.
3. Are you facing any obstacles?
One of the best things about daily standup is acknowledging that potential problems are normal. That’s why this might be the most important question.
Though it’s difficult to answer because people can have second thoughts about sharing that someone is responsible for the blockage, it’s important to acknowledge obstacles and seek a way to solve them from a procedural or structural level.
The goal is for each person to progress in their work with as few roadblocks as possible.
Kanbanize gives perfect examples on what typical obstacles may look like:
- My ____ broke and I need a new one today.
- I still haven't got the software I ordered a month ago.
- I need help debugging a problem with ______.
- I'm struggling to learn ______ and would like to pair with someone on it.
- Our new contractor can't start because no one is here to sign her contract.
- I can't get the ____ group to give me any time and I need to meet with them.
- The department VP has asked me to work on something else "for a day or two."
Best practices for standup meetings
Same time, same place
A consistent routine is important for standup meetings. Running the standups at the same time and place is essential to avoid confusion and make sure people do not forget to attend. Also, this makes it easier for other employees in the company to drop in if they need to observe the daily meeting.
You need to consider your team’s needs when setting a time and place. Check out with your team the earliest time that is convenient for them. Ask your team members if they are usually busy with critical tasks first thing in the morning. Consider holding your standup meeting at a convenient time to avoid impacting their output.
Prevent side discussions
Standup meetings usually do not last more than 15 minutes, and it is best if teams are committed to staying on track. For that to happen, people should not engage in side discussions that are irrelevant to anyone on the team. Team members should keep their updates short and to the point (without unnecessary details).
Cut off lengthy and detailed discussions
Try to avoid turning the updates into a lengthy discussion. If this happens, you should take an action and ask everyone to postpone the discussion after the meeting. You can write items that need to be discussed on a whiteboard to refer to them later.
Also, if you noticed that someone is describing how they solved a certain problem in detail, you need to step up and remind them in a gentle way that a standup meeting should be about quick and concise updates. This is important to respect everyone’s time and keep the meeting short.
Standing up leads to a shorter meeting
As the name implies, standup meetings are meetings with people standing up, as opposed to sitting. In in-person daily scrum meeting, it's best if everyone stands up. This helps speed up the meeting since people get tired from standing for too long.
Encourage team members to offer help
Standups are about communicating and being aligned every day and shedding light on obstacles (without going into details). This gives a chance for team members to help each other with problems they have faced before.
Encourage your team members to offer help if a teammate shares that they’re working on a problem someone else has already faced before (even if they did not mention they require assistance).
One person at a time
Try to keep the meeting organized and running smoothly by ensuring that one person speaks at a time. One way to do so is passing around a “speaking token” (e.g., a ball, toy, baton, etc.). This should show who should be speaking now.
Besides organizing the speaking order, a “speaking token” can introduce a fun element to the meeting. In meetings, people tend to rehearse what they will have to say when their turn comes instead of paying attention to what others are saying. So, passing the “speaking token” randomly with no specific order will help keep people more engaged and paying more attention.
Set up a calendar notification
Standup meetings are very short, so it is important that all involved be there on time to have a fruitful meeting. Set up a calendar notification to pop up just before the meeting. This should help eliminate excuses.
The fewer the participants, the better
It is quite challenging to run a 15-minute daily scrum with 15 people involved. The efficiency of the daily standups may drop significantly, and you may have a hard time getting any value out of it
It is best to break up meetings that have many attendees. You can keep your meetings focused based on activity and break them down. When a team grows too large, it is best if you break up the meeting into two separate ones. Keeping the meeting to eight or fewer people can help you run an effective standup meeting.
All team members should weigh in
You should make sure that your standup meeting isn’t just another meeting where team members are “talking at” each other, rather than engaging in meaningful discussion.
It’s best if you cut off lengthy discussions (postpone it to after the meeting) and be mindful of giving the more introverted team members time to share what’s on their minds. All team members need to update other members of the team on what they’re working on or help answer questions on upcoming tasks. They should not “outshine” each other.
Consider scheduling a daily standup meeting invite email
You need to have a standup meeting that is short and to the point. If you noticed that your team members are having trouble answering questions on what they’ve completed, what work they intend to complete, and obstacles they may have, consider scheduling a meeting invitation.
A meeting invitation scheduled five minutes before the discussion starts is a great way to remind your attendees of coming prepared, so the standup becomes more productive.
Following up is important
During standup meetings, obstacles are raised. It’s important they get solved without hindering the team's productivity.
The best practice is to assign someone to take notes of any action items that may arise during the meeting. It’s also helpful to set a deadline to check the progress.
➕ Extra bonus. Try sending out a thank you email after the meeting is finished; it has a positive effect on attendees and enhances meeting productivity.
Free standup meeting agenda template
Ready to create an optimal workflow and avoid dreary traditional meetings? Use this editable standup meeting agenda template and customize it according to your needs. You will also find quick tips on meeting details, number of attendees, and best practices.
More meeting agenda templates
This agenda is one of many more free agenda templates, created with every team's needs in mind. Feel free to download the ones that you use the most, customize them to fit your team, and make the most out of every meeting.
- Team meeting agenda template
- Board team meeting agenda template
- Quarterly planning meeting agenda template
- Sales team meeting agenda template
- Status meeting agenda template
- First meeting with new team agenda template
- Brainstorming meeting agenda template
- Skip-level meeting agenda template
- Kick off meeting agenda template
- Retrospective meeting agenda template
Because of the utmost importance of meeting agendas, organizations and teams of all sizes resort to a meeting agenda software, which is usually part of an all-in-one meeting management software, to facilitate the whole process and automate many parts of it.
Why daily standup meetings are better using adam.ai
Recently, we have witnessed a surge in remote working and worldwide acceptance of this system. Besides helping keep everyone safe, it offers a plethora of other benefits, from flexibility to increasing productivity.
So today, knowing how to run virtual meetings is a necessity. Now that you know how to run in-person daily standups, you need to know the specifics of running a virtual standup meeting.
First things first, being the facilitator of standup meetings including remote teams, hybrid teams, or members from different departments working on the same project, you will need an agile, reliable, and consistent meeting place that has all the right features to run a successful standup meeting — a meeting place that can help you manage your entire meeting's workflow from preparing, running, following up, and reporting.
So, what can adam.ai help with to run a successful virtual standup meeting?
- Integrating smoothly with your preferred workflow tools, whether calendar scheduling, video conferencing, file sharing, collaboration, and others
- Linking your standup meeting to relevant past standup meetings for quick access to needed content (this way you can monitor progress and enhance the commitment of the team)
- Setting a clear meeting agenda visible to the attendees
- Taking notes publicly in real-time or privately and turning them into actionable items
- Creating action items for the obstacles shared by the team, which may require discussion after the meeting
- Assigning actions to the right team members
- Voting and deciding on important decisions (e.g., if you are running the meeting for the first time, attendees can decide if the meeting time was suitable, or they can vote for a new meeting time)
- Following up on the action item list
- Recording the meeting for reference
Check out this video for more details on how to use adam.ai. You’ll love it!
And while there may be multiple meeting management solutions available, here are a few reasons to consider adam.ai:
- adam.ai is one of Atlassian Ventures' portfolio companies.
- adam.ai is ranked a leader in the meeting management software category by G2 for both quarters, Summer 2021 and Winter 2021.
- adam.ai has been included in the Forrester Report in the AI-enabled meeting technology landscape.
- adam.ai is trusted and used by powerful teams worldwide from The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Aramco, Western Governors University, and other renowned organizations.
- And most importantly, adam.ai integrates with your existing workflow, provides a free plan for life for small teams, and is the most affordable tool for larger teams (starts at $4.99).
To sum up, this article has covered the origin of standup meetings, their purpose, how to run them, and the best practices.
We have also included an editable standup meeting agenda template for you to adjust and customize according to your needs.
So, schedule your standup meeting today and create a routine to optimize the workflow and boost the team's commitment and productivity.