How to run an effective standup meeting and keep team members engaged

Published on
February 3, 2023

Agile, scrum, Kanban — there are a few different methodologies out there that rely on standup meetings to keep workflows smooth and teams on task.

With this type of meeting, you want to get in, share updates, set goals, solve potential roadblocks, and then get out. Quick and efficient.

Sounds easy, right? But in practice, it can be challenging.

So, how do you make the most of your team’s standup meetings?

Read below to find out. Whether you’re managing in-person or remote teams, or holding synchronous or asynchronous meetings, this guide will get your standups off to a great start!

What is a standup meeting?

Standup meetings are short, check-in style gatherings that usually last about 15 minutes. Many teams hold them daily but, depending on your team’s size and needs, you may want to space them out more.

Standups give team members a chance to share progress since the last meeting, address questions or problems, and talk about what each team member will focus on for the day. Since daily goals are a big objective for these meetings, most teams hold them at the start of the day — but you can also schedule them for the end of the day, too.

And who leads these meetings?

That depends on the type of team you’re working with.

Some teams will appoint a scrum master as the meeting leader. Other types of teams will either rely on a Product Manager or Tech Lead to guide the meeting, or they’ll pick someone from the team to manage it, keep momentum going, and guide the flow of conversation.

Benefits of standup meetings

Now you know what a standup is — but what’s in it for you? Here are just a few of the benefits of standup meetings:

  • Increase communication between team members and help collaboration.
  • Emphasize accountability and task tracking, since part of the discussion is centered on daily priorities and goals.
  • Provide a daily outlet to address potential problems, which leads to faster identification and resolution.

The 3 questions that should be answered in daily standup meetings

The most productive standup meetings are those that stay focused. 

And one of the best ways to maintain that focus? 

Make sure each session addresses the following three questions — no more, no less.

1. What did I do yesterday?

This question should be the starting point for each team member. It’s a chance for everyone to share their accomplishments since the last meeting, and to offer context when introducing topics to the current meeting.

Team leaders can use everyone’s answers to better guide the conversation, direct resources, and assign tasks as needed. Each person’s answers to this question also lets the team figure out how they’re doing on their collective goals.

2. What am I planning to do today?

Next, team members should spend a moment talking about their goals for the day. 

Why?

It’s all about the “no take backs” rule.

Once you’ve announced your plan, it’s not so easy to take it back. In terms of standup meetings, this means that once people have stated their goals, they’ve created for themselves a clear roadmap.

And, since no one wants to show up at the next meeting having missed their targets, they’ve also created for themselves some accountability and motivation, too.

Another reason why this question is important is because it helps align the whole team so everyone is working as efficiently as possible. It prevents people from accidentally doing things that aren’t a top priority at the moment.

3. What is in my way?

This question is crucial.

If you’ve got roadblocks in your way, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to hit those goals you’ve laid out. Standup meetings are the time to mention those roadblocks so the team can figure them out together.

Encourage others to bring up any potential blockers to their own work, and to point out blockers that may appear for others.

How often should standups be held?

Ah, that is the million dollar question. Ultimately, the answer really depends on the needs of your team.

For instance, you could hold them:

  • Daily
  • Every other day
  • Mondays and Wednesday only
  • Once a week

Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for your team!

Many teams hold these meetings daily, but if your team works on larger tasks that take two or three days to finish, then daily meetings might interfere with their productivity.

One thing is certain:

However often you hold these meetings, make sure to hold them at the same time of day.

That could be at the start of the day to get everyone kicked off and set the pace of the day. Or, you could have standups right before closing time as both a wrap-up for today and to set goals for tomorrow.

Best practices for having effective standup meetings

Now you know the reasoning behind standups and have some ideas about when to schedule them.

Next, it’s time to look at best practices to help you and the rest of the team get the most from them.

1. Keep it short and focused

Standup meetings come from Agile methodology — and the intent is to keep them short and focused.

In fact, they’re called “standups” because they were originally meant to be held with everyone standing up! The idea is that the discomfort of standing leads people to keep the meetings short, sweet, and to the point.

To keep standups focused, you could try hosting them while standing up, though that might be challenging in remote work environments relying on video conference tools and webcams  that don’t adjust easily. (You can now integrate Spinach with Zoom and Google Meet to make video standups a breeze.)

Or, you can set timers while making sure that your meeting facilitator chimes in to keep discussions moving.

Here’s a rule of thumb for standups:

If they’re longer than 15 or 20 minutes, it’s a good sign that the meeting isn’t efficient and needs to be structured better.

2. Establish a clear leader for the meeting

A leader is essential for standup meetings. They serve a few vital functions:

  • Facilitating discussion 😀 when no one is sure where to start
  • Steering discussion 🚗 according to the agenda to stay on task
  • Keeping track of time ⏰ so the meeting stays short and focused
  • Keeping the meeting fun 🎈 and keeping everyone engaged
  • Documenting all follow ups 📜 that will need attention at future meetings

Who should lead your meetings?

It depends on the organization.

Often, Product Managers or Tech Leads take the role of meeting leader. In more traditional scrum setups, it’s the Scrum Master.

3. Give team members the opportunity to prepare

Besides the fact that standup meetings set the stage for the day (or the following day), there’s another reason why you should schedule these meetings at regular intervals: 

Team members need a chance to prepare for them.

If they know when the meeting will be, they can put together quick bullet lists a few minutes ahead of time featuring:

  • Accomplishments ✅
  • Action items 💯
  • Goals 🏁
  • Roadblocks ⛔

These reports help everyone stay on task while offering an at-a-glance reminder of key points to bring up.

This is something that Spinach can help with, whether you’ll be meeting in-person or Google “Meeting.” You can set the platform up to send out Slack reminders when it’s time for team members to get their updates ready. They can write those updates directly in Spinach to save time and keep everything all in one place.

4. Promote team member engagement and discussion

If you have people who sit through standups without contributing, then you either have too many people attending your meeting or you have a problem with engagement.

The biggest reasons to hold these meetings are to give everyone a chance to make status updates and set goals. Each team member needs to contribute to keep the entire team on the same page.

This is another area where Spinach can help.

Use it for fun team building activities like icebreakers 🧊🔨, which get everyone into a good headspace before you get to the heart of the meeting.

You can also let Spinach steer the meeting for you so that it automatically rotates to the next person on the team, thus putting an end to the “Who’s next?” questions once and for all.

5. Use the standard format and customize as needed

When you’re getting started with standups on Spinach, use the standard format. This meeting template starts with yesterday’s accomplishments, followed by plans and blockers for the current day.

Starting with the standard format will help you and your team get used to the round robin style. Once everyone has a handle on it, you can move on to customized standups to suit your team’s specific needs:

Try Removing “Yesterday”

For example, some teams end up removing the “Yesterday” portion of the meeting from their Roundtable. In Spinach, it’s easy to toggle off “Yesterday” in your settings, letting your team focus on topics that matter now.

Add “Appreciations”

Another way to customize meetings is to add “Appreciations.” These are a great way to recognize and empower team members for accomplishments and other awesome things they’ve done.

Add them to your Roundtable so the team can give shoutouts 📣 and promote an encouraging, positive culture.

6. Keep the discussion focused on the agenda

Either you’ve been to meetings that drag on and on (and on) as people discuss their vacation plans, or the nitty gritty details of every task they touched today. Organizations report that roughly 50% of meeting time ends up being a waste of time.

What is wasting all of this meeting time?

It’s things like discussions veering off track. Or meetings that don’t have a particular focus, so discussion ends up disorganized until someone manages to pull it together. There are also those meetings where only the manager speaks while everyone else listens and wonders why this couldn’t have been sent out as a bullet list in an email.

These are all problems that can be fixed by creating an agenda, and then sticking to that agenda.

If a topic happens to come up that isn’t on the agenda, then it’s time to decide:

Does it need to be discussed?

  • No: Steer it back to the agenda.
  • Yes: Jot it down for discussion at the end, rather than disrupting the flow of the current meeting.

This is an area where Spinach can help. Rather than interrupting the flow of the standup, anyone can park a discussion item in the Parking Lot. You can discuss it at the end of standup or it will be captured in your Standup Summary to follow-up on later.

7. Highlight wins and recognize team members

Positivity goes a long way toward keeping morale up and everyone productive! Celebrating small wins and recognizing individuals not only keeps the vibe great, but helps unite the team.🏆

That’s why it’s a good idea to reserve a little bit of meeting time to call out those wins and recognize individual team members for their successes.

We touched on it above, but the “Appreciations” function in Spinach is the perfect way to do this. It gives team members a space to recognize peers who have helped them or offered encouragement.

8. Use a standup tool that centralizes team member discussion

You could run a standup meeting on paper, or with a shared document…

But should you?

Those methods worked before specialized tools were made for standups.

But modern standup tools like Spinach make it a lot easier to:

  • Share updates.
  • Solve problems efficiently.
  • Rotate through updates and attendees.
  • Use the timer to keep things on track.
  • Instead of interrupting, people can park discussions in the “Parking Lot” section for quick discussion at the end.
  • Keep your meeting notes all in one spot.
  • Send summaries out via Slack integration for everyone who couldn’t attend or for those who want reminders of key decisions made at the meeting.

And that’s just the start! These features and more will make your meetings streamlined, efficient, and productive.

What makes standups ineffective?

Now you know how to make the most of this type of team meeting. But what are some of the common pitfalls?

Learn what to avoid below.

Starting or ending late

Starting meetings late or letting them drag on is a recipe for inefficiency. For one thing, it can cause havoc with individual schedules. This problem is amplified when you’re working with remote employees across different time zones who will naturally have schedules different from your own.

Another reason why late starts and finishes are bad for efficiency?

Because they set a bad precedent.

The idea is not only to share status updates, but also to create a whole vibe. You want the mood to be upbeat and snappy because it sets the pace for the work to come while encouraging positivity. 📈 Straggling in late to meetings or letting them drag on is the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Reporting only to the manager or leader

These meetings are meant to help development teams or agile teams collaborate closely on software development and other types of projects. At no point should anyone in the meeting be there only to report to the manager or leader.

In fact, if that happens, it’s a sign that this person probably doesn’t need to be at the meeting since their tasks aren’t directly relevant to whatever the team happens to be working on.

Too many meeting attendees

How can you tell if you have too many attendees? 😵‍💫

Check to see if everyone’s status updates are relevant to everyone else.

If people are providing status updates that others in the group don’t necessarily need to know, it’s a sign you need to break your group down into smaller huddles. Separate teams according to the things they’re working on. That way, each member is working in tandem with the rest of the meeting attendees.

Lack of preparation

When people are prepared for status meetings, they can rattle off their updates to keep the discussion flowing. On the flip side, lack of preparation only bogs things down.

Make sure everyone has roughly 15 minutes prior to the meeting to jot down a few notes. Encourage brevity; it doesn’t have to be an essay, just a handful of bullet points. ✅

Run effective and engaging standups with Spinach

Ready to make your standups more engaging and effective?

The information we provided above will help you — and so will Spinach! Spinach gives you a simple structure to follow, plus the ability to customize your meetings so that they suit your team’s needs exactly. Use various tools to help your team prep for meetings, spread positive vibes, and more, all while staying on track and on task.

Even better, you can try it for free. Sign up here to get started.

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