Daily stand-up meetings for dummies

Everyone remembers their school days and the horror of graded group projects. You’d be hoping for a group organised enough to get the project done on time, without all stepping on each other’s toes.

Whether you loathed it or not, group working wasn’t left behind in school days. Teamwork is a huge part of software and product development, and daily stand-up meetings are the development team’s answer to organising group work.

Daily stand-ups are a great way to promote teamwork, keep product goals clear, and make sure everyone is on the same page. When they’re done right. Unfortunately, just like those graded group projects of your youth, daily stand-up meetings aren’t always useful. Here’s our 101 on daily stand-up meetings, what they are, and what they are not.

Daily stand-up meetings are:

  • A status update

At their core, daily stand-up meetings are short time slots set aside to discuss progress. They enable team members to track the status of the product in development, follow the work of their colleagues, and understand each individual’s part to play in current projects.

  • An opportunity to identify obstacles and issues

Daily stand-up meetings provide an opportunity to introduce problems and discuss obstacles. They can be a great troubleshooting exercise, and other team members can (and should) offer help with the issues at hand.

  • A lesson in collaboration

Stand-ups help fight siloes. They keep team members in the loop, feeling part of a unified project. The opportunity to offer help, and ask for it, creates a feeling of support amongst co-workers that can also improve the workplace atmosphere.

Daily stand-up meetings aren’t:

  • Planning meetings

Daily stand-ups are not the place to start making new plans or introduce your redirection ideas. If someone has a feature idea or new requirement, you should make time for a separate meeting to discuss and plan it properly.

  • An opportunity to socialise

Daily stand-up meetings aren’t 15-minute chin-wags. They’re not ‘watercooler’ moments, or opportunities to catch up with colleagues socially. They’re designed to be quick, concise and hyper-focused, with no room for pointless patter.

  • Just for the project manager or scrum master

A daily stand-up is for the whole team to keep up to date with projects. It’s a time for syncing, not for the scrutiny of individual team members. Nor should daily stand-up meetings be used for the scrum master to micromanage. This is a group effort, and team members should talk to everyone, not just the project leader.

Daily stand-up do’s

  • Stand up

It sounds like a no-brainer – the clue is in the name – but there’s a reason to stand during the meeting. Standing up keeps the meeting short and lively, and prevents people from switching off or talking for too long.

  • Have each team member answer the 3 questions:

  1. What have you achieved since the last meeting?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. Are there any obstacles (no matter how small) impeding progress?

These are the main points covered in daily stand-up meetings. Following these questions as guidelines ensures that the meeting is kept short, sweet, and to the point.

  • Address everyone

The team should have a structured order and address each person in attendance. There should be an easy way to tell who talks next. For example, work your way around a circle or pass around an item that means the person holding it is talking.

Daily stand-up don’ts

  • Rambling/ storytelling

Attendees should avoid overlong essays into their progress and encountered obstacles. It’s important to resist the urge to delve into long-winded explanations or storytelling, and to just focus on the base status of the project.

  • Rely on stand-ups alone for team communication

Daily stand-up meetings aren’t the single cover-all for teamwork. It can be easy to hold off on reporting an obstacle or issue until the next meeting, but that doesn’t mean you should. A stand-up may be great for regular progress updates, but it’s no substitute for a daily current of communication.

  • Interrupt or engage in problem-solving during the meeting

Unless the speaker is rambling or storytelling, never interrupt them when they’re answering the three questions. Nor should you piggyback a detailed fix onto the problem the speaker has just outlined. Remember: the daily stand-up is not the time for in-depth problem solving, but rather just to flag up that a problem has been met. Reserve any problem-solving for after the meeting has concluded.

Smooth meetings, strong teamwork

Daily stand-up meetings can help keep product goals clear, troubleshoot problems and promote teamwork. All they really come down to is a team standing up together and keeping each other updated on the progress of the project.

Did we miss any of your daily stand-up pet peeves? Tweet us and let us know.

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