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Guide to Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Daily standup meetings are considered a daily ritual in the agile ceremony, and they can make or break a team's effectiveness. These meetings help align a company team, share work progress, stay accountable, and quickly provide solutions for potential hindrances.

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Guide to Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Daily standup meetings are considered a daily ritual in the agile ceremony, and they can make or break a team's effectiveness.  These meetings help align a company team, share work progress, stay accountable, and quickly provide solutions for potential hindrances.

Jeff Sutherland describes the origin story of daily scrums in a post where he says their team started by examining how some top-performing engineering organizations handled their work. During their investigation, Sutherland and his team stumbled across a research paper showing that one of these engineering organizations' key success factors was "a daily meeting where they'd sync up on the project."

According to the research paper:

"The core architecture team met daily to hammer out C++ class interfaces, to discuss overall algorithms and approaches, and to develop the basic underlying mechanisms on which the system would be built. These daily meetings were several hours in duration; from what I heard, the project was made more of meetings than anything else."

In his post, Sutherland writes that they adapted the daily meeting idea, reduced the time and formalized it as a significant operating process that needs to happen every day.

Contents:

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What Is the Purpose of Daily Stand-up Meetings?

In American football, it's best practice for the team to huddle before each game. This huddle is strategic as it helps the team stay connected, informed, and calibrated during the match. Daily standup meetings are like a team's daily huddle in a company, especially for software teams. It keeps all team members informed about the team's landscape and progress. The team comes together to plan, discuss and move projects along.

Here are some major reasons for daily stand up meetings:

Status Updates

You've probably heard that daily scrums should not be treated as a status meeting for lengthy updates. However, there are necessary cases where your daily standup can be a short and effective status update meeting.

When a daily standup is treated as a status update meeting, team members are expected to provide a precise update on the progress of tasks assigned to them to another individual, usually a team leader, project manager, or general manager.

Status updates focus on individual contributions on the progress of tasks or milestones and not on business outcomes.

For best results during status updates, a team should try two things to keep members up-to-date on the status of whatever outcome they are working on. First, keep everything updated in a selected software such as Trello and address critical open questions. Second, do a simple asynchronous update using an effective tool like Slack. A member can start a thread, and other team members respond with updates on tasks they have each worked on, what still needs to be done, user story, and what impediments they are facing for each feature.

Goals and Next Steps

The point of the three questions in a daily standup meeting serves two primary purposes:

  • They relay information and help teams share recent accomplishments, providing the team with a sense of progress.
  • They help align the team around what other members are doing, leading to visibility and awareness.

By focusing on what each member achieved previously and will achieve today, the team attains an excellent agreement and understanding of what work has been handled, which goals have been achieved, and which ones remain. The meeting helps team members to make valuable commitments to each other for best results.

Road Blocks

While the first two questions addressed in a daily standup focus on individuals' contributions and progress, the last question is usually about roadblocks hindering the progress or accomplishments of assigned tasks.

The team needs to discuss impediments to avoid wasting time waiting for someone else to accomplish what they can't and come up with the best ideas to solve the problem after the meeting. The goal is for each team member to move in their own lane with as few hindrances as possible.

Any roadblocks discussed in a daily standup meeting become the Scrum Master's responsibility to find a solution as quickly as possible. If the Scrum Master cannot resolve the impediments raised, they have to ensure someone on the team quickly solves the issue.

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What is Discussed in a Daily Stand-up Meeting?

According to The Scrum Guide, "the daily scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the development team" where they plan for the next 24 hours.

The purpose of the meeting is to aid team collaboration and coordination. It acts as a short and fast feedback loop used by teams to stay aligned and on track, similar to a football huddle. If there is an issue, the team can address it fast and keep the ongoing projects on track. Without the daily stand-up meetings, a team member may be handling the wrong task, or they may need help solving a problem.

Daily standup meetings are held for teams to discuss three key questions:

  1.      What work did you do yesterday?
  2.      What work will you do today?
  3.      Are there roadblocks to your progress?

These questions help the team to:

  • Get on the same page about who completed which task
  • Discover what work still needs completion
  • Discuss whether yesterday's  results change today's plans
  • Get a clear picture of whether they are on track to accomplish the sprint goal
  • Help each other by resolving impediments

These discussions offer non-obvious and unique insights that most company teams miss. They highlight the progress of goals and help flag blockers. Also, the team gets strengthened when members share their contributions to the sprint goals. The daily ritual of sharing plans, progress and successes keeps everyone motivated about the team's overall contribution to the company.

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Stand Up Meetings vs. Other Meetings

Daily stand-ups are designed for small, collaborative teams to meet and move projects forward. They are more precise and focused than other scrum meetings that usually bring teams together throughout a sprint like a sprint planning, reviews, or All Hands meetings.

Daily Stand-ups

  • Small, collaborative and focused teams
  • It lasts for about 15 minutes or less
  • Structured and concise forum to share progress and address blockers
  • Attendants from other teams can be included to observe or listen in
  • Focused on ongoing and recently accomplished work
  • Align teams and triage issues

Other meetings

  • Deep discussions of specific tasks
  • Sharing using metrics
  • Elaborate and Creative brainstorming
  • Collaboration
  • Lengthy status discussions

Most teams conduct daily stand-up meetings by allowing each member to answer the three critical questions in order. One person answers all three, then the next individual, and so on. Other teams also choose to discuss a single product backlog item before moving to the next.

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What Are Common Pitfalls and Mistakes to Avoid With Daily Stand-ups?

The daily stand-ups should not be used as an issue resolution meeting. The purpose of these meetings is to simply highlight issues, not resolve them. Issues raised are resolved after and not during the meeting. This is a common mistake most teams make, but it is not the only one. Others include:

  • Keeping the meeting for too long: This usually happens when the discussion loses focus with irrelevant conversations or the standup team gets too large.
  • Irrelevant and Misaligned: A daily standup should serve all members and be helpful to all attendees. If updates only serve a handful of members, that's a sign that your standup is not well-structured.
  • Inconvenient Meeting time: The hybrid work culture has teas spread across different time zones. This makes it almost impossible to find a time that works for all without cutting into individual time.
  • Low attendance rate: Meetings can sometimes be exhausting and virtual meetings from remote work has made it even more draining. The fatigue and home distractions can make members uninterested in joining daily standup meetings. That's why most teams are now moving to an asynchronous structure where updates are written and shared among members to make it more engaging and reduce time spent in meetings.
  • Not listening to other team members: Most people often rehearse what they plan to say or how they'll answer the questions when it's their turn. While this is logical, it makes you miss a teammate's update and valuable information due to lack of attention.
  • Not mentioning blockers: Sometimes, team members get embarrassed, afraid, or uncomfortable to raise impediments they are facing. This becomes a pitfall when facilitators or responsible leaders can't offer a solution.

There are numerous reasons for teams to argue that standup meetings are ineffective and a waste of time. But clearly, it's usually a result of them conducting the stand-ups the wrong way. Leaders should maintain the structure of a standup- informal yet well-organized and focused- and ensure everyone follows the structure of sharing updates.

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Daily Stand Up Meeting Best Practices

As a dependable feedback loop, a daily standup can quickly turn into a place where teams cover information that isn't related to the plan or purpose of the meeting. That's why it's crucial to keep the objective in mind and think actively about how best to plan and carry out an effective daily standup.

  • Schedule a standup at a predictable time every day- It's always best to create a habit by holding the meetings constantly every day.
  • Keep it short yet impactful- Daily stand-ups should be around 15 minutes or less, with members literally standing up. Ensure to pull them back on track to focus on the objective whenever they diverge discussions.
  • Ensure everyone is engaged- All team members, including team leaders, should contribute to keeping it engaged and effective. Leaders should avoid watching silently from the sidelines as this sends a message that you are above others. Similarly, all members should talk by answering the raised questions or contributing ideas.
  • Be respectful of everyone's time- Facilitators should plan by sharing key factors like time and place. Members should also be prepared to answer the three critical questions as precisely as possible.
  • Plan to resolve blockers after the meeting- The meeting time is simply for raising the blockers, not resolving any of them. If a member shares their problem, the leader takes the responsibility to offer a solution. Alternatively, a fellow teammate who has handled the problem before can offer to solve it after the meeting.

If you are working with a remote workforce or a hybrid team, a daily stand-up meeting should practice:

  • Quality videoconferencing- Set up a virtual meeting and ensure all members can clearly see and hear each other. Lack of stable visual and hearing elements of a videoconference reduces the meeting's efficiency over time.
  • Easy and quick access- There should be an up-to-date calendar with an invite for the meeting, and it should include an active conferencing link so that everyone can easily use the invite to join the session.
  • Request feedback- It is always crucial to get feedback from remote employees about the sessions so that they feel valued and part of the bigger team. Ask them what they think about the meeting, what is good and what could improve. Do this for all team members and understand what they like and what they'd like to change for more excellent performance. Feedback makes the meetings effective.

Additionally, try to add variety to the daily standup to make it more interesting. For instance, add ice short ice breaker questions, invite members of other teams as observing guests, or tell anecdotes.

Daily stand-up meetings can provide your team with significant benefits when held correctly. The stand-up discussions can result in valuable and effective follow-up meetings where leaders such as developers collaborate and work together to overcome various blockers. Moreover, daily standup meetings can improve communication, enhance motivation and boost morale.

Sign Up for Hugo to Improve Your Meetings

Daily stand-up meetings are essential for agile development, yet it is often the most mishandled and misunderstood. Leaders should understand that stand-ups by themselves aren't designed to make the team agile. They aren't meant to inflate individual egos or justify role descriptions either. They aren't the place to plan. And they aren't the only time to raise and discuss blockers. If you feel stuck with daily stand-ups, ask for help. Sign Up for Hugo to Improve Your Meetings.

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