Shorten your daily standups using simple rules

Whether you are working in scrum or simply employing the structure to lead better update meetings, one thing is sure – effective communication is key to teamwork. A simple framework can do wonders to your team’s internal dynamics. Learn how to amplify this effect with a few simple tips & tricks.

What is a standup?

The concept of a daily standup stems from the agile manifesto which has provided the guiding principles of modern software development. Based on that various frameworks like i.a. Scrum, AgilePM & Extreme Programming were created. Most of them emphasise the role of collaboration within a self-organising and cross-functional team which constantly and iteratively develops software.

The practice of standups itself is a fairly simple one. As such, they can be used within various teams, not limited to programmers. The practice is all about everyday standing meetings which typically last around 15 minutes. During the meeting each team member shares their answers to 3 simple questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Is there anything blocking your progress?

Based on the answers, the project/team manager can assess the dynamics within the team and identify potential “bottlenecks” stopping the team from progressing. 

The pandemic effect

Since 2020, quite a few things have changed. Even if you have worked together as a team, you probably were forced to take your matters online. Multiple observations and a lot of feedback that we get from our clients have proved that moving meetings online can have a negative impact on the overall team’s productivity. The lack of non-verbal clues, lagging internet connections and an overall awkwardness of sharing your place interior all contribute to the communication challenges. How can we make more out of our daily interactions within the team?

Best practices

Although the practice is almost as simple as it can get, the devil really is in the details. As a manager you should make sure that the team’s alignment is right. The information shared by the team members should be relevant to at least one other participant. This way, no one is wasting their time listening to the information that applies only to one individual. Usually this makes other teammates to tune out of the discussion with detrimental effects to the overall dynamics.

Additionally, the standup can easily turn into a full-blown brainstorm meeting. Avoid this at all costs since you are not only wasting time for everyone not directly interested in the issue, but also destroying the momentum.

In order to really make the most out of your dailies, they should be happening regularly and at the same time. If that is the case, make sure that people working in different time zones can attend and actively participate in the meeting. 

Remember that the discipline works wonders. Keep the standups within the designated slots and decide on the go which issues need to be raised outside the meeting. Using a dedicated timer like this helps greatly in keeping the schedule. 

Find a way to engage more introverted teammates and make sure that everyone can comfortably and honestly participate in the meeting. We are all different and what works for one person may not necessarily work for the other one. Make sure that the routines you use fit the needs and preferences of your team. Management is about seeing through people and enabling them to realise their full potential.

Little by little does the trick

If you’re a manager then don’t try to implement everything at once. Start by taking small steps and seeing how the team dynamics change. Elaborate on why you are proposing changes and carefully listen to your team’s feedback. All the frameworks work only if they fit your needs and preferences. Tweak what you need to find an optimal way for your team.

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