Easy Rules for Running a Better Daily Stand-up Meeting
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Do you feel like your team’s daily stand-up meeting could be better? If so, you’re not alone.
The Harvard Business Review recently conducted a survey with nearly 200 senior-level managers across a variety of industries. The survey revealed that 65% of managers believe that meetings keep them from completing their work, and 71% of managers found meetings to be unproductive and inefficient.
With the right tactics in place, you don’t have to waste any more time on useless meetings. Instead, you can create meetings that benefit everyone in your organization.
One way to make your meetings more efficient is to host a stand-up meeting. Not sure how to get started? This article will cover what you need to know before making daily stand-ups a part of your routine.
What is a stand-up meeting?
The first question we need to answer is what is a stand-up meeting? Put very simply, a stand-up meeting is what it sounds like: it’s a short meeting held while participants are standing up.
The goal of stand-up meetings is to review essential tasks that are about to begin, in progress, or finished. The brief nature of stand-up meetings allows people to quickly get back to work without having to waste time in a long and potentially irrelevant meeting.
Having your team members stand-up will help keep them alert and on their toes, both literally and figuratively. During a stand-up meeting, you should quickly cover the following:
- What exactly needs to be worked on?
- Do we understand where we’re going?
- What is everyone else working on?
- What’s the broader strategy? How does it look at the task-execution level?
- Are people “rowing in the same direction?”
Answering these questions will help get everyone on the same page and ready for the workday.
How to run a daily stand-up meeting
Any workplace can say they’re agile, but that claim doesn’t mean much if you aren’t regularly seeking ways to improve the way you work. You can start right now by reviewing these strategies for simplifying your team’s daily stand-up meeting.
Actually stand up
When chairs are present for a meeting, it’s natural for people to take a seat, check their email, sip coffee, and chat with co-workers. You want your team to be comfortable socializing with each other, but the primary goal of a stand-up is to cover key points as efficiently as possible.
Plus, studies show that long hours of sitting leads to higher risks of diabetes, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Standing up during meetings will help keep your employees healthy and alert in both the long and short term. So keep your team standing, and you’ll keep the meeting moving.
With that being said, be flexible enough to accommodate any co-worker who is unable to stand due to physical limitations. You can be inclusive while still maintaining the spirit of the stand-up concept.
Set the agenda in advance
Every minute during a stand-up meeting is crucial. If you’re waiting until the meeting starts to go over the agenda, you’re wasting precious time. Instead, set the agenda in advance so people can come prepared with questions and ideas. Send the agenda via email, Slack, or your team’s preferred messaging system at the end of the work day so they have time to look it over.
Setting a schedule will also help keep you organized and on track throughout the meeting. An agenda reminds the team that you’ll be discussing points of the project and not how individual team members are performing. Schedule one-on-ones for another time so everyone has the chance to get specific feedback from their manager.
Stick to three questions
In addition to having an agenda, sticking to a specific set of questions can also help your stand-up meetings run more efficiently. Here are the three questions we suggest asking at every meeting:
- What have you recently accomplished?
- Which of my tasks or plans are currently in progress?
- What obstacles are impeding my progress?
Asking these questions gives your employees a chance to reflect on what they’ve accomplished and what’s ahead. It will also give them an opportunity to discuss any roadblocks they’re facing and brainstorm solutions with their coworkers.
The answers to these questions should be brief, and you should have your employees focus on the last 48-hour window when answering.
Make sure everyone is prepared
Just as you need to come prepared to the meeting with an agenda, so too should your employees come to stand-up meetings prepared.
Encourage your employees to spend 10 or 15 minutes preparing for the meeting. They should spend a bit of time writing down what they worked on yesterday, what they plan to work on today, and any roadblocks they may be facing.
When employees share their updates, encourage them to do so in a story format. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, but creating a story around their work can help them better understand the task.
Plus, people are more inclined to listen to stories than a list of information. Before each meeting, encourage employees to narrate their stories to themselves so by meeting time, everything goes smoothly.
However, it’s important to note that there are common mistakes people make during stand-up meetings that everyone in your organization should be aware of.
The most common mistakes include:
- Showing up late
- Sitting down during the meeting instead of standing up
- Rambling on (preparation is key to being succinct)
- Not listening
- Not preparing
- Repeating the same task
- Letting the same person always lead the meetings
Keep the stand-up meeting short
A recent survey found that 67% of employees complained that spending too much time in meetings hindered their productivity. That’s why it’s essential to keep your stand-up meetings brief.
As Maja Majewski at Planview explains, “Daily stand-ups should feel more like a huddle during a timeout of a soccer game rather than a board meeting.” Because stand-up meetings are meant to be quick and efficient, limit the meeting to 15 minutes and ideally no longer than 20 minutes. Anything longer than that usually means that people are bringing up too many points or going into too much detail. If needed, you can follow up with individual team members later in the day.
Bring up challenges, but not solutions (yet)
This might seem counterintuitive—after all, how often are people told to avoid solutions?—but keep the stand-up report limited to progress and pain points. Coming up with a solution involves brainstorming, and that’s not how you should use your time during a stand-up. Assign someone to take notes during the meeting so that any big issues can be handled afterward.
Be serious about staying on time
We can’t stress enough how important it is to stay on time during these meetings. To prevent the meetings from going over, we suggest using a timer. Not only will a timer help you stay on track, but it’ll ensure everyone gets a chance to speak.
Another point about time: consistency is key. So if your team works across multiple time zones, use a tool like Every Time Zone to figure out when your work schedules overlap. Then, when you’ve decided on the best time to meet, stick to that time every day.
Take notes of key points
You don’t want to forget everything that was discussed during the meeting, so we suggest taking notes of key points. This way, you can refer to the notes later when it’s time to get to work.
The notes serve several purposes: you’ll have a physical reminder of everyone’s progress, you’ll be able to address pain points, and you’ll have a reference for where your team needs to focus on developing better solutions.
Give everyone a chance to talk
Meetings should never be monologues. Giving everyone a chance to talk will foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork. It’ll also ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard and that everyone feels valued.
Some people are more shy than others, so the meeting facilitator needs to make sure that everybody has equal time to speak. Going around the group in a circle is one way to ensure everyone shares; some teams pass around a designated object (a small toy, an office supply, etc.) to signify when it’s someone’s turn to talk.
Involve remote workers in your stand-up meeting
Stand-up meetings shouldn’t just be for your onsite employees. Your remote workers are part of the team, too, and with technology like Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and Skype, it has never been easier to make it seem as though everyone is in the same room.You can use video conferencing tools to involve your remote workforce. Have your onsite team circle around a digital whiteboard like Vibe or meet up through the Vibe app on their own devices and get going.
Don’t forget to follow up
After a meeting concludes, it’s very important to follow up with your employees. This way, people can make sure they’re making use of their meeting ideas and staying on task.
Bonus: Include Vibe as part of your stand-up meeting
No one said your daily sync had to be dull. Make stand-up meetings more dynamic by using the Vibe board. You can easily share the day’s agenda to a team board, take notes for the team to review, and video conference with workers who aren’t in the office. Adding an engaging visual element keeps the team’s energy up and provides a clear plan to start the day.
What to do if stand-up meetings aren’t working
If you feel like your stand-up meetings aren’t working, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your employees.
Remember to take notes and to stick to the three questions, so everyone has a chance to speak. Also, remember to share the agenda with your team before the meeting, so everyone comes prepared.
[Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 17, 2020 and updated on June 11, 2021.]
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