Stand-up meetings: Are you doing it right?

This meeting is always underestimated and I've seen countless time become unproductive and boring…

One of the most famous meetings regardless the framework/process/methodology that your team is using. This meeting is a very important checkpoint to quickly evaluate the evolution of what it’s being done, to synchronize and to share information of some impediments that can jeopardize the team’s delivery. So, the keys to a productive Stand-up meeting is good communication and focus.

What is for?

Basically is a status meeting for the team and for the team only. This meeting has some goals: share information about what every team member is working on; sinalize blocks or doubts and help to evaluate the progression towards goals.

Where and when?

It's necessary to stipulate a place and a fixed time. Predictability decreases complexity. Don't wait for people. It should be held in front of the task board/Kanban board. The ideal time to start the meeting is in the first time in morning but some teams rather to do it right before lunch time. But it must be clear to the team: don't wait the meeting to start doing tasks but start the day with a Stand-up meeting ;).

Who is in?

Everybody that belongs to the team: developers, PO, Agile Coach/Scrum Master, testers, designers, marketing people, etc. In Scrum only developers, PO and Scrum Master are allowed to participate… well, fuck Scrum. If the team is comfortable and sees value in others presence just do it!

15 minutes of timebox, tops!

Usually, the timebox is 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is enough time for a nice group of people (I facilitated a 14 people stand-up meeting within 15 minutes!). This timebox must be respected. It reminds the team to be focused on share only important informations. If the team get used to this meeting you can decrease the time or no longer need a timebox.

Stand-up meetings is, literaly, standing.

The team must be standing to make the meeting short and objective. A good tip if the meeting it's not going well is if the team's members are getting tired standing. It means: "we're taking to long in this meeting".

What to say and which order?

Each team member should answer three questions:

  1. What I did since last meeting?
  2. What I'll do today?
  3. Is something blocking me to delivery?

It's nice that the facilitator (AC/SM) doesn't ask this questions to each team's member. It should rise from each member itself. Of course the facilitator already explained to them that they supposed to answer these three questions. About the order: discuss with the team what they think fits the best. A nice approach would be the last person to arrive in the meeting starts and then from left to right.

It is not a status report meeting to the facilitator!

Some team's members may find hard time speaking in public and they ended up speaking towards the facilitator or the PO. The facilitator should remind him/her to talk to the team and not to him or a specific member. There are some subtle ways to do that. As a facilitator you should avoid expressions like "Good job!" or "Nice one!" when someone exposes something. And try to move yourself behind the circle until you loose eye contact with the speaker.

Let some issues to discuss after the meeting.

Sometimes the team engage in discussions that are important but these discussions must be addressed after the meeting. Doing so, the members won't loose focus from the meeting and they will have 100% focus to discuss that particular topic in the right time. These misplaced discussions are the main cause of Stand-up meeting's goals disengagement.

Close the meeting with some frase to indicate the end.

It's important to maintain or raise team morale, especially if it's early morning. When everyone already spoke, the facilitator should ask whether there is any other information to be shared with the team. If there's not, close the meeting with a phrase that shows that and something to break the ice. I usually close with some inside joke and/or something motivational.

Therefore, to carry out a Stand up meeting effectively, it is necessary to make clear the meeting's objectives so that the team can focus on sharing important information to make good decisions towards goals.