7 Ways to Tune Your Standup Meetings

Written by JP La Torre
Ways to tune your #standupmeetings

Standup meetings are essential to maintaining a well-oiled Agile/DevOps pipeline. Actually, while Scrum and standups were originally designed for use in software development, their application also works beyond this sole remit now for any complex project work. With that said, teams may still feel like they’re not getting the most out of their standup meetings. Perhaps they’ve dwindled off the calendar or more people are sending in apologies for their absenteeism than are actually turning up for the meeting. Whatever the issue, if you’re looking for ways to finetune your standups, keep these tips in mind.

1. Identify the Mistakes

You won’t be able to tune your standup until you first figure out what is going wrong. Once you can identify the issues, you can take appropriate steps to correct them.

To spot problems, there are a few things you’ll want to watch.

  • Pay attention to what is being said at these meetings. Is the content getting repetitive? If people are saying the same thing day after day, try to correct some of these redundancies. Encourage your team members to provide more detailed updates so that everyone can learn something new during each meeting.
  • Make sure you’re having follow-up conversations with your team members. During a meeting, the team should be doing more than making reports; they should be asking each other questions, identifying process constraints, and offering assistance where they can. During an ideal standup meeting, you’ll see an improved exchange of ideas and good flow in communication.
  • Ensure your team members are reporting to each other rather than to a particular leader. The ultimate goal of a standup is to keep the entire team informed of everyone’s progress and problems. If you notice that team members are concentrating their reports towards a specific person, try to redirect their focus.

2. Keep Meetings Short And Simple

Time is a valuable commodity at work, which is why your team shouldn’t spend more than is necessary attending the daily standups. The entire reason ‘standups’ are held with everyone standing is to keep them short and sweet.

Stay on task, don’t deviate into longer conversations/meetings, and ensure the team is all working to the same project goals. For any points that require more in-depth discussion, schedule another time and place for the conversation to be held between relevant parties so as not to disrupt the standup meeting any more than necessary.

3. Get Your Meetings off to the Best Possible Start

Since these meetings are brief by design, you’ll want to make sure your meetings get off to a solid start. Before the time slot, encourage team members to make quick notes on an index card about their work. This is to prevent time wasted while everyone attempts to recall what’s going on in their task list. Their notes should consist of what was accomplished during the previous day, what they plan on achieving today, and any constraints that are blocking progress.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Acknowledge Constraints

It’s not unusual for team members to conceal things during standup meetings. It can be difficult to admit that you’re struggling with something to a large group of people. And because of this, people will keep quiet about the issues they are facing. Encourage an open, non-judgemental framework at each of your standups to allow your team to be open about any blockages or constraints that they’re struggling with.

If team members aren’t failing to report constraints, use prompts to encourage them to speak up. For example, check to see if everyone has access to the equipment they need or make enquiries as to what would help everyone move quicker. While not everyone is always willing to admit they’re having a problem, most people will speak up about an issue when asked. A daily use of such prompts will incite people to admit if they need help on anything.

5. Make Sure that Attendance Levels Are High

If only a handful of people from your team are regularly making it to the standups, your project won’t be receiving the full benefits they are able to accomplish. Standup meetings are much more effective when representatives from every area of the project are in attendance. Ensure that every department has proper representation and communication amid team members is high post-meeting too.

Ensure that everyone in the company hierarchy feels welcome attending and speaking at the daily standups; from C-level executives to the newest team member. Setting the meetings at the same time first thing in the morning allows your team to hit the ground running with their work for the day.

6. Make Sure Everyone Is Heard

If you go around the room and wait for people to take turns to speak, some team members might end up being ignored. It’s not unusual for people to switch off until it’s their turn to speak.

Pick people at random to talk to keep everyone on their toes. If team members don’t know when they will be speaking, they’ll have to pay closer attention to the meeting and everyone else.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Things

Don’t run all of your standup meetings in the exact same way. It’s wise to try something new from time to time. Routine is the enemy of progress. If you adjust your approach every now and then, your team won’t fall into a repetitive pattern. Instead, your team members will feel energized during every meeting.

Try holding the meeting in different places or even outside. Pass a ball from person to person to get everyone involved in the conversation. Even small changes can give people a new sense of perspective and motivation. Work to engage every member of your team by experimenting with the process.

 

When all is said and done, standup meetings are simple but effective—if tuned correctly. If you’re able to resync everyone back into accord with your standup meetings, your team will be able to make a lot more progress on the bigger picture. Which is what it’s all about at the end of the day.

For more on the benefits of Scrum in software development, check out the article Why IT Teams Should Adopt the Scrum and Story Points Approach.


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