The power of your daily standup questions

Published on
March 1, 2023

Your daily standup (or daily scrum) is an important part of starting the work day off on the right foot. In these brief meetings, you have the opportunity to ask team members questions to check in with each other — which can help the team keep on top of their goals. 🎯

Standup should not be a read-out or status update to management. Standup should benefit the whole team.  But, not everyone on the team needs the same things. 🧐

In this article, we focus on the different roles that attend daily standup, unpack what they  need, and suggest some specific questions that can help everyone get more value out of standup.

The 3 basic standup questions

The goal of a standup is to get a pulse on the entire teams' bandwidth, understand who’s working on what specific tasks, and determine overall progress and risk on what you’ve planned to build.

Bringing everyone together at the beginning of the day with a quick standup meeting can get everyone aligned and help narrow the day’s focus on the highest priority tasks.

The three most common daily standup questions:

  • What did you accomplish yesterday? 🏁
  • What will you do today? 🔨
  • Are there any blockers in your way? 🚩

These standard questions can give the team (and stakeholders) a solid baseline understanding of the teams' work items and kickstart problem-solving for any potential roadblocks. 

This is especially helpful for remote dev teams where the team leads don’t have the opportunity to casually check-in with team members around the office.

However, for many teams, these questions are surface level and might not dive deep enough to surface any blockers or issues. Even though standup meetings are designed to be quick and snappy, it’s important to tailor your standup questions to suit your teams’ specific needs in order to get more value out of standup.

Tip: Pay attention to your team members’ answers to determine if your three questions are pulling out the right responses. If not, you might need to ask better questions or leverage a tool like Spinach to get better input. 

Let’s look at a few different roles on a development team and break down what they need out of a standup — and some sample questions to help them get what they need.

The types of people in a daily standup 🧑‍💻

A daily standup typically includes engineers, tech leads, product managers, and designers- all with vastly different roles within the team. 

For example, a software engineer might spend days building a new feature, while a product manager is focused on customer research and developing user stories. So asking these two team members the basic YTB questions might not give you enough context into overall progress and risk of what you’re building together as a team. People tend to share either too much detail, or not enough. 

So, it’s up to the standup facilitators to ask better questions to surface the insights that matter (or use a tool like Spinach that does this for you).

When creating standup questions for software development teams, it can help to take a step back and consider what each member of the team needs to be successful and which questions will best surface their needs. It’s important not to get too granular, here: think big-picture. 

What engineers need from standup ⚙️ 

Daily standup is where the work you planned to do (ie your board) meets reality (ie how things are actually progressing). While software engineers can estimate the complexity of a specific task or how long it might take to complete, it's impossible to account for all possible variables and scenarios they may encounter. Accurately predicting a project timeline is super challenging (if not impossible).

This is why daily standup is so important for your engineers. It's where their estimates meet reality, and where the team has the opportunity to support each other to accelerate the work or reset stakeholder expectations.

Remember: Daily standup is for supporting your team. Not for reporting to managers.

Asking “what are you working on today?” or going ticket-by-ticket often doesn't cut it. Instead, try to focus on creating an environment where engineers are comfortable sharing blockers and issues, and focus on getting them the resources they need to keep things moving forward.

Standup questions for engineers

  • Who do you need support from?
  • Were you asked to do work (or attend meetings) you didn’t anticipate? 
  • Any challenges or blockers to your progress? 
  • Any unexpected issues you’ve come across that will delay delivery? 
  • Would pairing up with another developer help you?

What product managers need from standup 🔮

Product managers focus on the future. These roles keep a close eye on market trends, have a solid understanding of the end user’s needs, and help prioritize product features and capabilities. 

Because this role is forward-focused, their needs are too — they tend to focus less on what’s already happened, and more on what’s in progress and what still needs to happen.

Product managers can provide business context and help the team keep priorities aligned, so the whole team understands which items to handle first.

Standup questions for product managers

  • High level, are we on track to deliver and what’s at risk?
  • Do you need better information or detail from anyone on the team?
  • Are you concerned about any specific deliverables?
  • Is there anything you see that management could help us accelerate? 
  • Are there any tradeoffs we can make to ensure priority features get released?

What tech leads need from standup 💾

Tech leads oversee the development and delivery of a finished product or solution. Their responsibilities overlap somewhat with product managers in that both roles focus on delivering a successful product — which is why these roles work closely together. 

However, whereas product managers are more product-focused (obv), tech leads have engineering leadership responsibilities in addition to performing technical work themselves, including architecture, training, upskilling, project planning, and goal setting/monitoring.

During daily standup, tech leads can level-set progress towards sprint goals (or sprint backlog), organizational changes and improvements, or areas that need focus. Questions for these team members should focus on emergent issues that have the potential to snowball and impact other departments and customers. 🤝

Standup questions for tech leads

  • Any unexpected coding issues? 
  • Do any tickets need to be escalated?
  • Are there any new requests coming in that need discussing?
  • Do you need another pair of eyes on anything?
  • Are you working on any unanticipated items?
  • Any long-term concerns or implications here?

What designers need from standup 🎨

Designers are critical members of the dev team. On a day-to-day basis, they may be reviewing project requirements and user stories to understand the goals of a particular feature. They research user behavior to inform design decisions. And they collaborate closely with engineers to make sure the final product is consistent with the user experience they designed. 

If your designers are not aligned with the rest of the team, stuck, blocked, or overwhelmed; then your goals and timeline will be at risk. 

Standup questions for designers

  • Do you have enough input from customers?
  • Are the problem statements clear?
  • Are there any new unexpected requests coming in? 
  • Any upcoming design reviews that may set us back?
  • Were you asked to do work (or attend meetings) you didn’t anticipate? 
  • Do you need to pair up with any engineers today?

Get more value from standup with Spinach 🥬

Daily standup meetings are meant to bring teams together first, and give leaders insights into progress on different projects second.  With the right questions on deck, you can make these quick meetings more effective and valuable for your team.

Want to make them even more productive? Use an AI Scrum Master from ✅

Spinach joins your standup as a passive guest. When it's over everyone gets a summary of key decisions, follow-ups, and each persons' progress and plans. Spinach will even suggest new tickets and updates to existing tickets based on what you discussed.

Spinach can join meetings in Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Teams. Spinach can output summaries to email, Slack, Notion or Confluence. And Spinach can create and edit tickets (with your permission) in Jira, Trello, Asana, Linear, and ClickUp.

Try Spinach free and see for yourself the difference we can make!

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