How to improve your team standup meeting format for better productivity

Published on
February 6, 2023

“Let’s have more meetings!” said nobody, ever. 

Yes, we know meetings are essential for sharing ideas, getting updates, and working through roadblocks. But they can also be unproductive time-sucks and leave participants feeling like they just wasted time they’ll never get back.

In this article, we will look at daily standup meetings: what they are, their benefits, and how to run them to suit your team’s needs.

First, what is a daily standup meeting? 

A standup meeting, also referred to as a daily scrum meeting or huddle, is a short meeting where agile development teams can discuss their progress, plans, and any bottlenecks. There are three main formats for daily standups: 

  • Live daily standup: Happen in person, in an office or conference room.
  • Virtual standup: Take place on video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet.
  • Asynchronous daily standup: Take place in writing only. Teams share written updates at any time they want to via messaging tools like Slack, or in a document like Notion or Google Docs. 

These meetings ensure team members are focused on the right priorities and are on the same page.

Benefits of effective standup meetings

Ninety percent of development teams have a live daily standup — and with good reason. For many remote employees and distributed teams, the standup meeting may be the only facetime they get with their co-workers. This makes it a unique opportunity to build rapport and strengthen connections. 

Standup meetings can build positive relationships and, while short, are catalysts for better results. Whether you use live or asynchronous daily standups, they carry some pretty hefty benefits:

  • Helping projects move faster: Standups can increase workflow efficiency, so projects flow better, helping every team member complete tasks with fewer issues and distractions.
  • Improving team communication: Sharing updates, sparking collaboration, and problem-solving is easier with standup meetings than through endless emails and endless Slack threads.
  • Keeping everyone focused on the top team priorities: Leaders can use daily standups to tie broad goals with individual tasks.
  • Pinpointing problems earlier in the process: Identifying obstacles early allows teams to address them before they become major, resource-wasting issues. 🎯

Who should lead team standup meetings?

Determining the best meeting facilitator is usually up to the team to decide. It's often the Tech Lead or Product Manager, but can sometimes be a Scrum Master. Most teams use the same facilitator for every standup meeting, but some decide to rotate the responsibility to each participant. 

The thought behind the rotation methodology is that it keeps everyone more involved and engaged in the process. Facilitators often feel pressure to make the meetings fun, keep everyone engaged, and keep things running smoothly. Spinach takes that burden off their shoulders by automating the process, including documenting follow-ups. 📝

The standard standup meeting format

A standup meeting starts at the same time and is held at the same place every day, and they shouldn’t last longer than 15 minutes. (Remember, the goal is to keep it quick and painless.)

Three standup questions will always be on the meeting agenda template.

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What obstacles stand in your way?

Using these questions during every daily standup gives the meeting structure and helps the participants be prepared. Each attendee, in-person or remote, should answer these questions quickly and succinctly.

Ways to customize your standup meeting format to better suit your team’s needs

Daily standup meetings can increase your team’s effectiveness and make them more productive. However, your team may find that they don't need all of the usual elements — or maybe you need more. Here are six ways to tailor your standup meeting format to keep these meetings relevant and useful for your team.

Remove the "What did you do yesterday?" question 

Many teams remove “Yesterday” from their standup meeting agenda, preferring to focus on upcoming plans and future actions — rather than rehashing what's already happened. Unless what you did yesterday was a complete surprise, you likely already shared your plans and progress with the team. Talking about yesterday leads to repetitive updates and can cause the team to tune each other out. 

Teams using Spinach can toggle off “Yesterday” in the settings. Removing this question can shorten the meeting time or give participants extra time to talk about other, more important points. ⏰

Add goals

Goals are a useful element for daily standups, and are helpful to include in the first meeting of the week. Consider asking a single question, like "if you could only accomplish one thing that week, what would it be?" This establishes each team member’s focus and helps prioritize their tasks over the next few days. 

Teams who use Spinach can add a custom question to any daily standup. On Mondays, we see many Spinach teams adding "Goal for this week" as a custom question.

Make announcements 📢

An effective daily standup addition is an announcements section. Standup meetings don’t need to include announcements every day — once a week generally works well. 

We recommend saving announcements and related team discussions for the end of your daily standups. This prevents the meeting from going off on time-wasting tangents that derail focus and cause the meeting to drag on for too long.

With Spinach, teams can use the Teams Topics section to help you remember these important announcements without interrupting the flow of updates.

Include appreciation and recognition

Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to keep team members engaged in their work. 🙌 Integrating it into standup meetings is a smart way to ensure high performers feel valued. 

Much like with announcements, these don’t need to be daily meeting additions. Including it once at the end of the week is a great way to recognize team members for their contributions and end the week on a positive note.

This section of the meeting can be top-down accolades from the manager or team leader to the team members, or it can be peer-to-peer shout-outs for helping out a teammate or going the extra mile on a project. Frequent recognition of well-deserved performance creates a stronger, more united team. 

Talk about weekend plans

Another positive addition to a daily standup is a once-weekly personal share of weekend plans. It’s always fun to hear what your teammates are getting up to on their days off. Seeing into their lives outside of work can foster better rapport among team members and may even uncover hobbies and activities they have in common! 

This activity is especially important for remote teams who don’t have the opportunity to visit with their coworkers in the office hallway or lunchroom. To keep things from getting too far off track, we recommend putting this at the end of the meeting (after all the work-related stuff is out of the way). 

Bonus: Use a format we call the "After Party”

Spinach recommends a format called “The After Party.” 🥳 This format calls for the regular 15-minute daily standup — but with an added 45-minute follow-up session.

"45 minutes? But I thought standups were supposed to be short?!"

We hear you. And they are — stick with us.

Let's say that an action item gets flagged for attention during the 15-minute standup meeting. The After Party is the perfect time for relevant team members to get together to work it out. This benefits teams in that they don’t have to waste time coordinating their schedules to meet about the issue. (And team members who aren't relevant to the topic don't have to stick around for it.)

The After Party should be totally optional: If nothing comes up in the standup meeting that requires further collaboration, brainstorming, or problem-solving, the team returns to work. 

Best practices for daily standup meetings

Executing effective daily standups is a high priority to teams and offers significant benefits. There are some set guidelines for creating a successful standup meeting cadence that every team should follow.

1) Establish a consistent time and length ⏰

Effective standup meetings are well-structured. If they run longer than 20 minutes, they morph from a standup to a regular meeting. Avoid this issue by using a daily standup meeting template to organize every facet.

Set the same amount of time aside for every daily standup. This consistency helps participants get the meeting into the work “groove” and prepare for it.

2) Start and end on time

Nothing tanks a daily huddle like a few participants dragging in late when the meeting's already in progress. This behavior throws everyone off and decreases enthusiasm for the meeting topics. 

On the other hand, it’s frustrating when meetings continue past the stop time because the facilitator has lost control of the meeting, letting someone get on a tangent or running too long with their status update.

Require a commitment from every participant that they will be present on time. The facilitator needs to prepare to block any tangents or side conversations that could cause the meeting to go too long.

3) Use a standup tool for increased engagement

A standup meeting tool like Spinach helps run a better daily standup by increasing engagement and productivity.

Some of the helpful features that Spinach offers are:

  • Reminding attendees to prepare
  • Rotating through attendees during the meeting to avoid “who goes next” issues
  • Setting a timer to pre-determine how long each person can talk
  • Parking discussions in “Team Topics” to save them for the end
  • Sending a summary to Slack for participants (and those who missed it) to review

Using a standup meeting tool allows teams to automate the meeting processes and keeps everything on track and progressing.

4) Follow up on action items

Thorough follow-up is one of the most important ways to get the most out of standup meetings. Standups don’t exist in a vacuum. Attendees will need to address issues and blockers identified during the meeting. 

An automated tool helps teams avoid letting these fall through the cracks. Sharing a summary with every stakeholder keeps everyone informed. The relevant team members can meet to follow up, and the team leader can check with them on progress.

5) Focus on progress and next steps

The first question in a daily standup is “What did you do yesterday?” because previous actions play into what is still waiting to be done. 

However, standups aren’t the place to wallow over what has already happened, how it could have been handled better, and where the team made mistakes. That's a different meeting entirely. 

The whole team should keep future plans at the top of their minds during these status meetings. After all, you can’t go back in time and change anything — but you can plan and prioritize to make the coming day productive and profitable.

6) Keep it positive

Never underestimate the power of positivity! 💪 Standup meetings aren’t the place to air beefs with other team members, gripe about heavy workloads, or complain about unreasonable client demands. They are a forum to refocus team efforts, collaborate on plans, work through problems, and engage with teammates. 

Negativity and criticism don’t have a place in daily standups. By maintaining a gracious, positive stance, the team can leave their meeting refreshed and excited about their workday.

Enhance your standup meeting format with Spinach

Agile teams need a way to check in, share updates, brainstorm, and identify and work out bottlenecks. Instead of long, rambling meetings that everyone views as a waste of time, use standup meetings as an effective way for on-site, hybrid, and remote employees to communicate and stay informed. 🧠

There are best practices to follow for creating the highest-performing, most effective daily standups possible for the entire team. And, as with anything, using the right tools paves the way to success.

Could your standup meetings run smoother and return more effective results? Spinach could be the answer you’re looking for. With our intuitive interface and powerful integrations, writing reminders, sharing information, discussing topics, and keeping everyone in the loop with summaries are automatic and simple.

Want to try us for free? We’re up for it! Sign up with Spinach and start holding more productive daily standups today.

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