Mastering standup meetings: A guide to effective daily check-ins
February 21, 2023
No one likes attending a poorly run meeting. 🤦 Unfortunately, that’s the way many stand-up meetings are run — albeit unintentionally. 🤷
A daily standup meeting (also known as a morning huddle or daily scrum) is a short meeting designed to help leaders check in with team members, understand any blockers that are holding up progress, and know what the whole team is planning to do with their day.
Knowing the best practices for running standup meetings can help you avoid these problems and instead help improve team building and empower employees to accomplish goals.
In this article, we’ll help you understand the best ways to run an agile daily standup 💪 and improve your meetings for the entire team. 😀
1. Use a tool designed for standups
If you run standup meetings without a platform or technology tool, it can be hard to stick to an agenda, keep the meeting running smoothly, or see your progress day over day.
Using an app or tool that is made to move standup meetings along can help team leaders take facilitation off their shoulders. It can also create a flow for the meeting that becomes standard, and easy to follow each day.
Additionally, using a tool for standup can take a lot of tasks off your list ✅
Running standup for you
Randomizing speaking order
Showing who goes next
Keeping track of time
Surfacing blockers or dragging tasks
Keeping everyone focused
Making it engaging and fun
Summarizing the meeting
Suggesting new tickets and updates
To learn more about using a standup meeting tool, check out Spinach and see how an AI Scrum Master can make daily check-ins more effective and easier to manage.
2. Keep timing and meeting place consistent every week
Another important part of agile methodology is to ensure that standup meetings are consistent and team members are committed to attending them. Part of keeping up with that from a management perspective is to make sure the time and meeting place are the same every week to build consistency.
It’s also important to keep team members’ schedules in mind, especially if they’re in different time zones. Having asynchronous daily standups can help, but it's important that distributed teams share updates at the same time, or you see quality, velocity and response time suffer.
3. Only include key team members
One of the major ways that daily standups become bloated is when you have too many people in the meeting.
A daily standup should only include key team members who have important things to contribute. Consider who needs to be included and who doesn’t for you to understand what you need to know about project status.
Limiting attendees can help cut down on unnecessary time spent within the daily huddle, and may make the team more comfortable sharing blockers and issues when they don't feel as though they are "reporting status" to managers or stakeholders.
4. Keep standup meetings concise and to the point
Sticking to a meeting agenda helps you keep things concise while avoiding side conversations or unnecessary chatter. When your standups are short, sweet, and to the point, employees don’t dread showing up to them.
You’ll also be able to keep their attention. When the meeting runs too long, attendees will lose focus — maybe thinking about their next meeting or other pressing tasks they need to get done. This diminishes the value of a daily standup and can make the meeting a drag for team members.
Instead, a short meeting helps focus people for the day ahead and lets you check in with teams.
5. Try an icebreaker to get things started
Often, a standup meeting is the first meeting of the day. That might mean that team members are sluggish 🥱 or slow to tune in, so helping add some fun and entertainment to the start of the meeting can help warm things up!
An icebreaker is a question or activity that is meant to ease tension and “break the ice” between individuals or teams. Even if your daily standups have the same attendees every day, an icebreaker can still make the meeting more engaging and entertaining.
The best icebreakers for standups will incorporate humor and a little fun, and don't need to take too much time away from the core of the meeting. But these quick activities pack a punch, empowering team members to contribute to the later discussion and encouraging team building.
6. Provide a clear agenda
Having clear agenda means everyone knows what to share in the roundtable, and if there are any additional parking lot items to discuss that day, you know they are coming! When the team knows what they're expected to share, they can prepare in advance which always leads to better (faster) standups.
Here are the standard roundtable questions covered in most standups:
What did you do yesterday?
What are you working on today?
What blockers are standing in your way?
In Spinach, you can add your own custom roundtable questions like "Wins" or "Appreciations".
7. Try and keep side conversations to a minimum
Far too often, a daily standup will spark an idea that quickly devolves into a side conversation, with two people talking about a topic or solution that's only relevant to a few people.
While it’s not wrong for employees to want to discuss these things with each other, it can cause others to tune out. And it can drain the clock. The number one reason that standups run long is due to rabbit hole discussions like this. If team members need to have a side conversation about something important, that may deserve it's own sync-up meeting at another time.
In Spinach, there's a Parking Lot where anyone can add a discussion topic for the team. Spinach saves the Parking Lot items for the end of standup. This keep things moving without forgetting to tackle important topics at the end. If the discussion isn't relevant, others can leave.
Common challenges of standups (+ solutions)
Daily standups, like any type of meeting, do come with their share of challenges. Here are a few common standup meeting challenges and some actionable solutions to help you curb the chaos.
Standup devolves into “generic” status meeting
Standups are intended to serve as quick, snappy meetings that surface progress and blockers. They’re not meant to be a ticket-by-ticket affair with a lengthy verbal rehashing of each. 😵💫
Not only would that take forever, it would be incredibly boring and cause many team members to check out. This setup is demoralizing, and may make the team feel micromanaged. It also encourages them to overshare details not relevant to the rest of the team, which can cause a quick standup to devolve into a long status meeting.
Having a specific tool for running your standup meetings like Spinach helps keep everyone on track and focused. Spinach provides templates and structure for daily standup meetings so facilitators don’t have to wonder about what comes next or who still needs to speak.
Team members fail to bring up blockers
Another common challenge that can come up in daily meetings is team members not surfacing their blockers until it's too late. Blockers are the challenges and roadblocks preventing attendees from completing tasks or project goals. 🚫
But maybe a team member feels embarrassed by a potential blocker and worries about being judged? Or maybe they don’t want to seem like they’re complaining, or unable to do their job. This is amplified when managers and stakeholders join the standup. See rule 3 above 👀
These are all valid reasons why an employee may not bring something up in a public setting like a meeting. Unfortunately, that can lead to serious problems down the road, leaving team members vulnerable instead of getting support.
Limiting meeting attendees creates a more intimate setting where blockers and issues are easier to bring up.
Icebreakers are great for more than just kicking off your meetings: They’re a great, lighthearted way to build rapport between remote workers and encourage a more fun work environment. 👏
Similarly, make sure that all of your team members get recognition for their accomplishments. You can even include accolades and shoutouts as a “formal” section of your standup meeting roundtable using a tool like Spinach.
Recognizing your employees for their contributions can help build their confidence and make them feel more supported — which will make them more likely to speak freely about blockers during standups.
Team members forget to prepare for standup
We've all showed up to a meeting unprepared. It's your turn to speak, and you have no idea what you're going to say. Unfortunately, this is how most people show up to daily standup. Since it's a short 15 minute meeting, team members often forget to think about what they'll share. 😬
We’re all human. Even if standup is part of your team’s daily schedule, there are a million other things requiring attention that make it easy for standup to slip their mind.
Unfortunately, if the team hasn't thought about what they'll share in standup, it may be less productive than you want it to be. Team members will have to think of their status updates on the fly, and it’s easy to forget important details when the spotlight is on you. This has a negative impact on your ability to surface issues, and ultimately the team's velocity.
As a team leader, it is your responsibility to motivate your team and encourage them to prepare for standup.
With Spinach, you can set up reminder notifications that automatically go out to your team members a few minutes before your meeting, reminding them to fill out their updates. If you use Slack or another team communication tool, a Spinach integration can send the reminder straight to your channel of choice.
Host more efficient and effective standup meetings with Spinach
Daily standups keep everyone aligned on project progress and give you a chance to address blockers. But when your daily standup meetings are run inefficiently, they can become time-suckers that do more harm than good.
Using a platform like Spinach can help you host more efficient and effective standups. With Spinach, you can standardize your meeting questions, keep everyone on track, and provide an agenda that keeps your teams moving forward. ✅
See how Spinach can help your daily meetings. Try Spinach free and discover how we make your daily standup more effective!