What happens at a daily stand-up meeting?

The development team and Scrum master attend and participate in daily stand-up meetings. While it's not mandatory for the Product Owner to attend daily stand-ups, they or any interested team members from other projects are welcome to join, though can only listen. The Scrum master ensures they don't disrupt the meeting in any way.

Most teams follow a standard template of three questions in order to keep the daily meetings short and relevant. These are usually:

What did I accomplish yesterday?

What will I do today?

What impediments do I face?

The first answer should be very brief. Time should be spent on identifying problems before they snowball into bigger ones. Many teams treat their daily stand-up only as a status update for their boss, but it's a lot more than that. Daily stand-ups are a way to make commitments to your teammates. Like many other rituals, these meetings are most effective when you understand the values behind the practice. Otherwise, it becomes a mindless ritual.

To change the dynamic of the stand-up meeting and give it more power, Jonathan Rasmusson decided to word the standard three questions differently.

"What did you do to change the world yesterday?"

"How are you going to crush it today?"

"How are you going to blast through any obstacles that are unfortunate enough to be standing in your way?"

Jonathan Rasmusson,

The Agile Samurai: How Agile Managers Deliver Great Software

Why do you need daily stand-up meetings?

When several or more people have to work together, there's bound to be some challenges. Face-to-face communication can go a long way in easing conflicts, and holding daily stand-ups will help your team:

Stay on the same page

In an agile project where a lot can change from one sprint to the next, it's imperative that the entire team stay aware of all that's happening and how it effects the project.

Engage with your team

Spending time with your team will help you connect with them as individuals. Team dynamics are influenced not only by the nature of your work, but also by the personalities and the relationships within your team. Beyond mutual respect, it's important that your team members be able to relate to each other.

Sharing is caring

Two brains work better than one. Whether they're problem-solving or optimizing a current practice, knowledge-sharing within a team will greatly improve efficiency.

Best Practices

Liven up your meetings

In most team stand-up meetings, the Scrum master acts as the facilitator and decides who's going to speak next. This is a subtle act against self-organization. You could use other methods like round-robin (this starts with a random person and goes clock-wise or counter clock-wise) or pass-the-token (in which only the person who's holding the token can speak, after which they throw the token to a random person). With predictable mechanisms like round-robin, people often ignore the speakers until its closer to their turn, while random methods like pass-the-token keep the team on their toes.

Walk the board

Instead of the three-questions template, structure your stand-ups by walking through the Scrum board of your project management tool. You can start with the ones on the top-right side of your board—the ones closest to deployment. Then, go from top to bottom and from "Done" to "To do." This way, the focus is less on individual updates and more on the progress of the team as a whole.

Time your meetings

The ideal stand-up meeting should be 15 minutes or less. As teammates get more comfortable with each other, your stand-ups may start getting longer. A gradual increase becomes harder to spot. An effective way to reduce rambling or digression in your daily stand-ups is to time your meetings and share it with your team everyday. 

Things to avoid

Problem solving

Identifying impediments is an important goal of a daily stand-up but it's not the place for problem-solving. You can maintain an improvement board where problems are jotted down as and when they're identified. With a visual acknowledgment of the problem, the team is less likely to delve into it during the meeting. When a problem is identified, assign the responsibility to a team member and all further discussions are postponed.

Reporting to the leader

When the Scrum master is the facilitator and the team follows the three-question template, team members tend to face the Scrum master when they speak. Instead of a meeting, it can become a group of individuals reporting to the facilitator. Rotating the facilitator for each meeting, changing the position of the team members, or even an act as small as the facilitator deliberately breaking eye contact can encourage people to talk to their team. 

Low energy

The pace of a meeting could slow for a variety of reasons—people are unprepared, speakers start to ramble, or everyone is done speaking and their voices trail off into an awkward silence. Rambling can be reduced by timing your meetings. If your team is unprepared, you might want to think about rescheduling the meeting to work around their schedule or talking to them to find out if there is a bigger issue at hand. If you want to end your meeting on a high note, you could come up with a phrase your team can shout in unison at the end of your daily stand-up. It's a simple, yet powerful technique. It could be something as simple as "Go [team name]!" or something more quirky like"Code, Push, Merge, Repeat" or "Let's crush those bugs!"

A daily stand-up meeting is a crucial tool that can greatly boost communication and, in turn, efficiency within your team. It's important to be aware of why you're doing something in order to do it the right way, regardless of how small or routine the practice is. In this way, be conscious of your daily scrum meetings, mix things up with new exercises when you find the meetings getting a little ritualistic, and regularly take a new look at how you can make it even better.

In Zoho Sprints, you can schedule recurring daily stand-up meetings for the entire duration of your sprint. Meeting reminders are sent as emails and in-app notifications. Record your takeaways in the group chat so that you can take them up as actionable items after the meeting.