8 tips for better Stand-up meetings

Being synced with your team is vital to develop great products or services. That is one of the main reasons remote and hybrid work models have critically disrupted the workplace. Most people were used to physical person-to-person conversations, with an array of resources that cannot be replicated in a video meeting. Virtually sharing a cup of coffee to talk about last night's game is just not the same…

In this context, daily stand-up meetings also have changed. Do you feel like standing in front of your computer while sharing blockers you have encountered? Have you found a replacement for tossing a ball to the next speaker? Maybe you could do things a little differently, better adapt, and, why not, avoid waste in your budget.

Topics to check

  1. The objective of stand-ups
  2. 8 tips to improve stand-ups
  3. Automate your stand-ups

The objective of stand-ups

According to the Agile Alliance, there exist three main benefits, which are:

Sharing current critical knowledge - You want to make sure nothing essential falls through the cracks. The information must constantly flow to enhance collaboration and prevent anyone from losing time by redoing stuff or being out of focus.

Team cohesion - Meeting regularly to share relevant details and help each other benefit the team's health. It can also help as a ritual for colleagues to kickstart the workday and become a central part of their routine.

Straight and to the point - Either you use the traditional “What did you accomplish? | What are you on? | Do you face any blockers?” structure or go for a custom one, the core concept of stand-ups is to be as quick as possible.

These sound great, but stand-ups alone won't do the trick. You must thoughtfully consider their features and the reason they work that way. You don't want to time-box it just for the sake of doing it. You should know that people's time costs money to the organization and be aware of other contextual conditions that even include attention lifespan and neurological patterns.

Failing to meet stand-ups foundations may not be a crime, but it can suck away any benefit from performing them. The Agile Alliance also lists some common pitfalls: reducing the ceremony to a status report for the scrum master or project manager, when the aim should be for peers to discuss progress, ask for support, and keep things going.

8 tips to improve stand-ups

We would like you not to focus on what you might be doing wrong but rather concentrate on what you can do to improve. Some time ago, our in-house specialist at Encora, Julio César Gónzalez, shared a concrete and practical list of ideas to enhance your stand-ups. Based on his wisdom, we transfer you this version by the SoftwareDevTools team.

1. Get in a routine - Establishing a fixed time is a must, as it is easy to fit in anyone's agenda. Newcomers can also adapt faster. Additionally, meetings should occur when all of the people are available, always considering different time zones. If your stand-ups are celebrated only during certain days of the week, you should keep consistency. If you pick Mondays, stick to them!

2. Focus on the flow of work - If people start talking endlessly about accomplishments and opinions, your stand-up can easily miss the time-box and waste everybody's time. Peers should focus on sharing updates that foster collaboration and take blockers out of the way, obviously, with the support of a scrum master. People can go brag about their accomplishments later.

3. Visually represent progress - This one has had teams upholstered their office walls with post-it notes for decades. Remember that humans engage better when there are pictures that can support what is being communicated. Tools such as Jira boards make it easy for everyone to follow how tasks unfold and have proven really useful for remote and distributed teams.

4. Skip solving issues - You've heard this one before too many times, so why is your team still doing it? We know it can be tempting: Everyone is there, so brainstorm and solve it at the moment… then, 15 minutes after everyone has shared their ideal solution, there is no concrete output and a more extended meeting than expected. The stand-up is not the moment to solve things, but to notify about issues.

5. Avoid repetition - The idea behind rising blockers and sharing tasks updates is to actually solve them. If those keep sitting in your board meeting after meeting, then some people might not be doing their job. Make the team mindful about this and make sure both the scrum master and the involved peers get their hands on delayed tasks.

6. Invite the involved team members - You want to be careful on who gets into the meeting, as the team will be discussing issues, and stuff can get sensitive. At least, you don't want to make your colleagues feel like their failures and frustrations get exposed in front of management. If you're going to invite other stakeholders, set a different meeting for that.

7. Follow-up on blockers - That is the reason why there are scrum masters, so empower them to help your team clear any obstacle in their way. It is also a good idea to train collaborators to develop ownership and look proactively for solutions. Remember, you should not solve issues during the meeting but afterward.

8. Adopt a specialized tool - Drop the worksheets and go for specialized tools instead. If you are already using Jira, you might be on the right track. You can go further and look for a tool that can automatically gather your colleagues' status, so you spend less time in the video meeting.

These eight practices should be a great starter to keep your stand-ups effective. But, what if you could reduce even more the time you invest in your sessions, prevent disrupting your teammates, and still get all the benefits? Then you should meet Stand-Bot.

Automate your stand-ups

One hard truth about hybrid and remote work models is that they will never replicate what the physical workplace is like, no matter how many video meetings and corporate social networks you throw in.

In that sense, you could try to automate your stand-ups instead of holding meetings, freeing some time in your teams' agenda. Stand-Bot can gather your teammates' status on tasks and blockers by asking them through Slack, just as any other peer would do. It has unique customization features, is easy to configure, and can reach your colleagues regardless of their time zone.

Add it to Slack and try it now!

You can learn more about how Stand-Bot can automate your stand-ups here.

Either you choose to keep the meetings or opt for automated stand-ups, we think these bits of advice can help you refine your collaboration practices in favor of achieving better results. Avoid turning them in time syncs where people talk about details that aren't useful for anybody.

Consider Julio Cesar Gonzalez's advice: "The mantra of keeping them short and on target will reap countless benefits. And maybe the practice will spread to other time syncs … er … I mean, meetings."

Highlights summary

  • A daily stand-up is conducted daily at the same time where the team discusses the items in the backlog.

  • The core team must assist daily stand-ups. The extended team can assist, but should not participate.

  • During daily stand-ups the team should be as comfortable as possible. An effective way to achieve it is by starting the session with an ice-breaker question.

Are you adopting or looking to improve your Agile practices? Is your team remote? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you should check out our products for distributed teams. We focus on making communication more effective and easier for remote teams.

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Agile transformation for distributed teams needs the right tools. At SoftwareDevTools we focus on building tools that enable #Agile in remote teams. Real-time collaboration and productive discussions.

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