The Complete Guide to Daily Standups for Agile Teams
Time is our most valuable currency.
The traditional approach of lengthy, information-packed meetings is often a time sink rather than a productivity booster.
Daily standups are quick, focused, to-the-point meetings. They serve as the team's regular pulse check. Also called the daily scrum, daily huddle or sync meeting, they're a concise platform to share updates, highlight blockers, and align the team's efforts. They’re a quick morning huddle where everyone gets on the same page and gets clarity for the day's work.
So how do daily standup meetings work, and how can you leverage them to boost productivity?
What is a daily standup meeting?
The daily standup, or the daily scrum, has roots in Agile and Scrum methodologies.
A typical daily standup is built around three main questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any blockers in your way?
The goal here isn't to solve problems but to identify them, so they can be addressed promptly.
You’ll notice I made no reference to the format of the meeting. Traditionally, stand-up is an in-person meeting. It can also be a virtual one, of course.
Your standup doesn't necessarily need to be a live gathering of people. It can be asynchronous, where team members provide updates in their own time, or even AI-driven, where an intelligent system aggregates and shares relevant updates from your project's platforms. Both methods can increase flexibility and inclusivity, particularly in remote or distributed teams. More on these later.
Why daily standups matter
Why the fuss about daily standups? Well, many software teams capitalise on a number of perks to the daily ritual.
Flow of communication
Standups provide a regular, structured space for the team to exchange information and updates, and align on the day's priorities.
This constant feedback loop leads to fewer misunderstandings, less duplication of effort and greater visibility.
In standups, everyone gets a platform. Team members share their progress, commitments, and blockers in front of their peers, to keep what was agreed in sprint planning with the Scrum Master and Product Owner on track.
Standups are more than just status updates; they're mini retrospectives.
Teams share their work and blockers and highlight inefficiency and productivity bottlenecks. This daily reflection leads to continuous improvement and a more streamlined workflow.
In standups, every voice matters. Everyone gets a chance to share their work and ideas.
This isn’t just good for morale. It’s a good practice for inclusion too. Choosing a daily standup format that works for as many as possible matters. For example, asynchronous status updates may be better for distributed teams, and be more inclusive of introverts, for example.
Identify and Tackle Blockers Swiftly
With daily standups, issues don't fester and become massive roadblocks.
They're highlighted promptly and dealt with swiftly, keeping the project on track and minimising disruptions.
Running a daily standup
What should be covered in a standup meeting?
A daily standup is essentially a progress checkpoint. Each team member briefly shares what they accomplished the day before, what they plan to tackle today, and any impediments they face. The emphasis is on brevity and alignment rather than problem-solving. Deeper discussions are better suited for separate meetings.
How long should a daily standup last?
Ever heard of the 15-minute standup? That's the sweet spot. Aim for 15 minutes, but remember, it's not a hard rule. The key is to keep it short and impactful. If you have a large team, you might need more time, but consider breaking into smaller groups to keep the meetings swift and focused.
Who should 'own' the daily standup?
Unlike traditional meetings, daily standups don't need a designated 'leader.' Instead, everyone shares the responsibility of ensuring a productive and efficient meeting. However, having a Scrum Master or Project Manager facilitate the meeting can help maintain focus and pace, especially for larger teams.
When should a daily standup take place?
Morning. Start your day with it. It sets the stage for the day, helps identify bottlenecks early, and ensures everyone is aligned and ready to tackle their tasks. But remember, if you're managing a remote or distributed team, consider different time zones when scheduling the standup, or consider asynchronous or AI-driven standups.
What to discuss in a daily standup?
Focus on progress, plans, and problems. Discuss what you've accomplished, your agenda, and any obstacles you face. Remember, this is not the time for detailed problem-solving or feedback. Keep it concise, and take any complex discussions offline.
How to run remote daily standups?
Remote teams and distributed teams run daily stand-up meetings in much the same way as you would have face-to-face. Leverage reliable video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet. Consistency is key, so schedule the standup at a time that accommodates all team members, keeping time zones in mind.
A top tip: Asynchronous daily standups
Many agile development teams are evolving their processes to incorporate asynchronous daily standups or AI-driven daily standups. These methods provide several advantages, including time efficiency, flexibility, and in the case of AI-driven standups, a heightened ability to surface vital insights automatically.
AI-driven tools automatically summarise what happens across all your platforms without human intervention.
Asynchronous daily stand-up tools allow team members to type or even record their daily standups.
In both cases, you could set up a #standup Slack channel and use a tool to deliver updates and summaries automatically.
Strategies for Effective Standups
The success of a standup is not determined by how rigidly you stick to a script but by how effectively it fosters trust, transparency, and open communication. Here are some expert strategies that could take your standups to the next level:
Ask Insightful Questions
Go beyond the basic questions: What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? Any blockers? Encourage your team to delve deeper by sharing insights or interesting challenges they encountered. This enriches the standup, promotes a culture of continuous learning, and facilitates cross-pollination of ideas.
Pro Tip: If you do live standups (including virtual standups) consider rotating who leads the standup. This person can take responsibility for asking probing, insightful questions that push the team to think critically about their work and identify potential improvements, while changing perspectives.
Standups should be brief. Encourage your team to keep their updates concise and to the point. Consider using a timer to maintain a brisk pace. This is especially useful for larger teams or for those that tend to get sidetracked.
Pro Tip: Instead of using an arbitrary time limit for each participant, consider using a 'Progress/Blocker Ratio'. Each person should spend more time discussing blockers and potential solutions than routine updates.
Harness the power of technology to streamline your standups. An increasing number of teams automate their standup process, track updates, and maintain a record for future reference.
Pro Tip: Consider AI-driven standup tools, like Stepsize AI, that can digest information from your project's various platforms and present the progress updates that matter without human input. Stepsize AI can surface insights humans don’t spot.
Make stand-ups positive
An often-overlooked aspect of standups is the atmosphere. A positive, respectful environment encourages participation and facilitates open communication.
Pro Tip: At the end of each standup, consider asking each participant to share one positive thing - an accomplishment, a piece of good news, or a shout-out to a team member. This 'Gratitude Round' can boost team morale and start the day on a positive note.
The pitfalls of traditional daily standups
Daily standups can sometimes fall short. Here are some common problems teams face:
- Time-consuming: Often, daily standups take longer than anticipated, eating into valuable work time. Over a week, this can accumulate into hours of lost productivity.
- Inconsistent participation: Not everyone can participate in standups all the time, especially in distributed teams across various time zones.
- Information overload: Too many updates can drown out the ones that truly matter. It takes work to sift through and remember all the details.
- Dependency on human memory: People can forget to mention key details or may not realise the significance of specific updates.
These symptoms can be a sign you need to switch up how you complete your daily standup. Asynchronous or AI-driven standups, such as those facilitated by Stepsize AI, can help mitigate these issues by providing flexibility, reducing manual input, and leveraging intelligent data analysis to highlight important information.
How Stepsize AI can help
Stepsize A is an AI that does standups better than standups do!
It's your secure AI companion that keeps an eye on your software projects across all your communication platforms, including Slack, Jira, GitHub and more.
Stepsize AI has a firm grasp of your team's context, goals, and activities. It works like an attentive colleague, observing, reflecting, and providing deep insights into what truly matters to your team.
Instead of having your team scrambling to recall and share updates, CollabGPT generates summaries of activities, decisions, and results that matter the most. Every day (or week), CollabGPT combs through your project's daily happenings and shares what's important.
Got a complex question? No worries. Stepsize AI can answer it with precision.
Is your team dispersed across multiple collaboration platforms? Stepsize AI handles it seamlessly by matching references across different sources, from pull requests and Slack conversations to Jira tickets.
And, of course, we understand how crucial data privacy is. With our Privacy Command Centre, you control your data, keeping it secure and private.
We think it’s a game-changer, and I’m confident you will too.
Pulling it together
Daily standups are a way of effectively exchanging key information in agile software teams.
But traditional daily standups can sometimes fall short, creating opportunities for AI-driven and asynchronous solutions to shine.
We're building Stepsize AI, the AI companion for your software projects.
It integrates seamlessly with your existing platforms like Jira, Slack, and GitHub, and keeps you informed on what truly matters. It's like having a super-smart, ever-alert team member who's always on top of things.
It provides powerful summaries of your project's progress, actionable suggestions on what to tackle next, and can answer any pressing questions in real time.
It's a game-changer for agile teams. But don't just take our word for it.