11 Ways to Make the Most of Your Standup Meetings
When done right, team meetings can be a great productivity driver for your company. When your team is working together in a way that encourages communication and collaboration, you’ll find that identifying and solving business problems becomes easier than ever before.
In today’s busy world, employees often feel isolated. It’s important for you to bring your team together when possible. Of course, it can be tricky to find the time to do that when everybody is working hard on their own deadlines. When you set aside a few minutes each day for the team to meet, you create an important routine that supports the project and builds camaraderie.
That’s where standups come in.
What is a daily standup meeting?
Standups are daily meetings that include the members of the team working on a project. Some call standups “daily scrums” or “daily huddles” or even just “morning meetings” or “daily check-ins”. Many people in the restaurant world call standups “line-ups”. In the traditional scrum meeting format, the members of a team stand around the room or near the project board and report on their progress.
These types of meetings are most common in software companies and other businesses that use agile development methodologies, like Kanban, but they’re also useful among all types of teams looking for an efficient way to share updates, overcome roadblocks and stay aligned as a team.
As a result, standup meetings can be especially effective for those working in the service industry, and with hourly employees.
What is the purpose of the daily standup meeting?
The goal of the daily standup meeting is to go over important tasks that have been finished, are in progress or are about to be started. There are many benefits to following a daily standup meeting format:
In the business community, they’re a useful way to track workflow and project status. When the team meets on a regular basis, the workflow is more consistent.
In the service industry, they’re a great way for employees to share relevant information and trade tips. For example, if one waitperson had trouble with a customer the night before, she might ask for advice on how to handle a similar situation in the future. That way, your establishment becomes known for consistency. Or, internally, if a cashier had trouble balancing their drawer, someone else may be able to offer a more efficient way to count cash.
There are other reasons why standups are popular. Let’s take a look at a few:
1. Get people functioning as a team.
It can be tough for a team in a fast-paced environment to communicate effectively. Let’s use some examples from the restaurant industry once more:
- The chefs rely on the dishwashers to have clean cutlery.
- The waitstaff relies on the bartender to make drinks.
As you’ll see, every person has feedback for others, but instead of long boring meetings, standups are quick check-ins that give the team time to communicate and air any issues or impediments they might be experiencing for getting the job done well.
2. Build a shared vision.
When the team stands in front of the project board and sees how the work is progressing, they have visual proof that each person is working for the same goal.
Top tip: For remote teams, virtual standup meetings can be run using communication tools like Slack’s Standuply to help overcome time zone conflicts.
3. Help coordinate efforts.
When the team meets at the beginning of every shift, most of the communication issues can be avoided. To borrow our restaurant example again: the kitchen staff want to let the wait staff know that they need to use louder voices or neater handwriting. Instead of having to wait to explain an issue at an infrequent team meeting, team members can take time during the standup to report problems.
4. Make teams more efficient.
Ever left a meeting feeling frustrated and overwhelmed instead of inspired and motivated? Us, too. With just one 10 to 15 minute meeting during the day, team members can spend their time on focused work, rather than arguing about issues that are easily resolved.
5. Improve intercompany communication.
Representatives from the marketing department might show up to hear about features that are being created. The CEO might sit in to get a feel for any obstacles the team may be facing. Inviting people outside of the regular team can really help everyone expand their understanding and insight of others, and how their roles all fit together.
How to run a standup meeting the right way
Standup meetings require dedication and management experience. If you’re new to the standup meeting format, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
#1. Keep your standups to the same time and place every time
Whether you choose to hold them daily or weekly, try to make your standups adhere to some sort of consistent routine. Start them at the same time and don’t hang around for any latecomers. Make sure the meeting location is in the same place every time, and that the room is quiet enough for attendees to actually hear and see one another.
Be sure to work it around your team’s needs, too. What’s the earliest time that is convenient for all team members? Are people usually busy with critical tasks first thing in the morning? Hold your standup meeting after these rather than derailing their workload. Likewise, if your team members work different shifts, make sure to facilitate this so everyone can attend the meeting.
#2. Keep your standups brief
The clue’s in the name – standup meetings should not run any longer than it takes for anyone to get uncomfortable standing up! Of course, you don’t necessarily have to stand for the course of the meeting, but we recommend giving it a go because it goes a long way in keeping any tendencies to ramble on or attention wander to a minimum.
As a general guideline, standups usually only last 15 minutes, at most. Their purpose is simple – to provide a status update and report any obstacles. If you discover the standup meeting is starting to get longer, this could be a sign that team members aren’t communicating effectively over the course of the working day.
#3. Be clear on what the standup meeting is for
The aim here is to keep everyone involved focused on a common goal. Whether that’s:
- Sharing updates on work-related project and tasks
- Figuring out how to prioritize resources
- Coming to a consensus on next steps
Everyone needs to be on the same page as to what the purpose of the standup is and their role within it.
#4. Have a set agenda for your standup meeting
Running a standup is all about creating a routine. You don’t have to follow the aforementioned traditional style standup that includes working the board, answering questions and discussing obstacles.
Instead, you should organize something that fits your team goals, individual personalities and your company’s culture. Before a standup starts, you’ll want to consider some of the following questions:
- Who should attend the standup?
- What will be discussed in the meeting?
- Where and when will the standup be held?
- How will I create buy-in during the meeting?
#5. Keep the standup to the same format
Once you’ve considered the specifics, it’s time to imagine how the standup meeting will play out. There should be some sort of visual representation of the project workflow, whether a physical or digital Kanban board .
At the beginning of a standup, people move cards on the board to show progress. When you’ve done that, each person on the team should report out about the status of the work items.
The three questions to be answered during a standup are:
- “What tasks have I accomplished since our last standup?”
- ”What are my in-focus/in-progress tasks until the next meeting?”
- “What obstacles am I currently facing that are keeping me from doing my job properly?”
If every attendee has a sense of exactly what they’re getting done and what their areas of concern are, then this will go a long way in helping the wider team figure out what they can do to help each other out, stopping problems snowballing.
Another thing: if your standup meeting could easily be replaced by an email update, then you’re not doing it right.
#6. Don’t let things veer off course
Daily standups are meant to be quick conversations about how to keep work moving, not deep dives into specific problems.
While it’s a good time to identify issues, figure out who needs to be involved and then move onto the next issue, it’s not the time or place to go into the nitty-gritty or brainstorming possible solutions. Standups are to discuss status and obstacles. If obstacles cannot be rectified quickly, you can always check in with different team members after by email or chat, or even pull the relevant team member aside immediately after the meeting.
For example, if your standup meetings tend to devolve into discussions around who can swap shifts or take on different projects, consider whether a tool that facilitates easier communication between team members (like Slack or Asana for project collaboration and Planday’s scheduling tool for shift swapping) could work better than a daily meeting.
As an aside, standups should be about work items and not about the person performing the task. It’s important to ensure that standups do not become another status meeting or a way for employees to report to their leader or manager. If a manager joins the standup, remind them that this is not the place to ask questions of their employees. This meeting is about providing the team information about the progress of the project.
#7. Give all team members the opportunity to speak up
The last thing you want is your standup meeting to become yet another meeting where you or the standup meeting facilitator are “talking at” each other, rather than engaging in meaningful discussion with the team.
To help combat this, make sure that you give more introverted team members time to talk about what’s on their minds, whether it’s updating other members of the team on what they’re working on or helping to answer questions on upcoming tasks.
#8. Build in time for team members to prep for the standup
Standup meetings should be short and to the point. If team members have trouble thinking about what to say and how to explain the work that they’ve completed, the work that they intend to complete, and any obstacles that they have, consider building in a few minutes of prep time before the meeting begins.
Scheduling an invitation to the meeting that begins five minutes before the discussion will commence is a good way of reminding attendees to come prepared for a productive standup.
#9. It’s all about the follow up
Assign someone to take notes of any action items that might crop up during the standup. If any obstacles are raised over the course of the meeting, make sure you know who’s chasing these up, so they’re resolved without hindering team productivity. It’s also helpful to set a deadline to check in on how these action items are progressing outside of the standup.
#10. Switch up the standup meeting facilitator.
Rather than putting it on one person, make the standup meeting a shared responsibility by rotating the meeting facilitator (known as a scrum master in the usual Kanban standup meeting format). And make sure everyone can easily determine if it’s their turn to lead the next meeting.
#11. Don’t be afraid to have some fun!
Why not keep the team’s interest level from flagging by injecting a bit of fun into proceedings? Some of the following tactics can keep your standup meeting from feeling like yet another chore:
- Playing a funny song to signal the start of the standup meeting
- Kicking off the standup by sharing a funny joke, story, gif or meme
- Having some sort of token item, like a stuffed toy or a ball, that attendees can pass around to the next person whose turn it is to speak
- Taking a quick moment to remind the team about the value of their work by any positive customer feedback
- Encouraging team members to thank each other after a task has been completed
- Think of a team cheer or some sort of signature sign off for the end of the meeting – this is a great way to foster a sense of team spirit!
Standup meetings don’t have to be another time waster
Standup meetings, when run effectively, are key in helping the entire team figure out how to accomplish business goals. Standup meetings can also foster a stronger team culture among your employees. They allow one another to see that everybody is focused on the same goals. These short meetings give all stakeholders a chance to learn about how the team is functioning as a unit.
The most important thing you can do when starting a standup with your team is to create a routine that can be followed on a regular basis. Keep your standups short and concentrated on the work at hand. You’ll find the in doing so will make your team feel excited, focused and ready to get to work. Good luck!