Meetings are essential for any huge undertaking, such as complex app projects.
Unfortunately, meetings also have the potential to
hinder more than help.
Consider that organizations lose nearly
$37 billion to unproductive meetings each year. Employees lose as much as 4 hours per week on them!
This is where daily standups can help.
These short sessions can help you get the most out of meetings while minimizing wasted time and money.
Here’s how you can implement them in your development projects.
What are daily standup meetings?
Daily standup meetings are quick sessions that last 15 minutes or less. Their main agenda is to get daily updates on team members’ progress, plans, and obstacles.
The daily standup is one of the cornerstone meetings within the Agile methodology, where it’s called the daily
As you can see below, daily standups only take up a small portion of a typical sprint session, but the value they provide is enormous.
It’s no coincidence since the daily standup was first adapted by the founder of the Scrum methodology, Jeff Sutherland.
Jeff got the idea for the daily standup from the development team behind Quattro Pro.
What’s notable about that project is that each of the eight developers there managed to write
a thousand lines of code per week.
How did the team achieve this feat?
James O. Coplien, who
wrote a paper about the Quattro Pro team, reveals their secret:
The project capitalized on its small size by centering development activities around
daily meetings where architecture, design, and interface issues were socialized.
Jeff was fascinated with the idea, but because these meetings lasted an hour or longer, he thought that they took up too much time.
So he stripped the meeting down to its bare essentials, retaining only the critical agenda needed to align the team. By doing so, he managed to reduce the meeting time to 15 minutes.
And thus, the daily standup was born.
What is the purpose of daily standups?
The primary goal of daily standups is alignment.
More specifically, to ensure that every developer on the team is working on the right things and that they’re progressing with their tasks.
Daily standups provide an opportunity for developers to discuss and tackle anything that gets in the way of that progress.
Mountain Goat Software
Scrum Guide presents a more concise purpose of daily standups:
The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work.
At DECODE, this is our take on why daily standups are essential.
First, for everyone to get up to speed on the project’s overall progress. It’s important for the team to follow their progression toward their shared goal.
Furthermore, this reminds each individual team member that their work contributes to the project’s success.
Second, for team members to get in sync with each other. For instance, in the case of dependencies.
A developer can prioritize completing a task if a team member needs it done as soon as possible to begin working on their own task.
Third, for the development team to know who is or will be working on what.
This is necessary to avoid duplicate work and prevent time being wasted as a result of two developers simultaneously working on the same task.
Fourth, for developers to keep in mind the tasks that have yet to be completed.
By doing so, developers can take the big picture into consideration, prioritize and assign tasks in their backlog, and pace themselves.
Finally, but most importantly, daily standups are essential to reveal the problems that developers are currently facing.
This allows the development team to deal with those issues before they can cause significant delays.
What are the rules of daily standup meetings?
While daily standups seem simple enough, they’re actually governed by a few strict rules.
An unbreakable rule is that the standup meeting should NOT last longer than 15 minutes.
The clue is in the name – the meeting should be short enough that you can comfortably hold it while standing up.
The reason is that you don’t want the daily standup to take away too much of your developers’ time.
Frequent deviations from this standard can quickly amount to hours wasted over the course of development.
To achieve this short timeframe, daily standups must be concise.
Participants should give the gist of their updates without getting long-winded. In the same way, any problems brought up should only be discussed briefly.
You shouldn’t turn a standup into an open-ended brainstorming session or problem-solving meeting, as it will sidetrack the meeting.
If you need to talk about a critical
topic in-depth, it’s best to schedule a separate meeting for that.
The next rule is to hold the daily standup at the same time every day. holding it at a consistent time and place reduces planning complexity.
Participants will know exactly when to block off their schedules for it, ensuring that all team members can be present.
Speaking of attendance, the third and final rule is that everyone on the development team must attend.
You can’t align a team when you don’t know what everyone’s up to or struggling with, right? So, it’s critical to make the daily standup mandatory.
Concerning the third rule, only development team members should
actively participate in the daily standup. Outsiders (like the client) can join, but only as passive observers.
This reduces unnecessary distractions that could extend the meeting.
What questions are asked during daily standups?
The simplest way for your daily standups to last 15 minutes or less is to stick to the three questions format to guide the meeting.
The moderator or team leader asks them to each developer, listens to their response, responds briefly, then moves on to the next person.
These three questions provide structure to your daily standups. They ensure you cover only the essential topics while keeping the session concise.
Plus, they’re simple enough to remember and relatively easy to answer.
What did you accomplish yesterday?
This question mainly aims to gauge each team member’s progress on their tasks which, in turn, determines if the entire project is on schedule.
Ideally, what a developer accomplishes each day should change regularly.
If it doesn’t, it could indicate that something is impeding their progress or they may not have the expertise to complete the task.
That’s why, in that situation, you should always ask the reason behind a developer’s lack of progress.
For instance, a developer might tell you they didn’t finish their task because of too many meetings or other
distractions at work, giving you an opportunity to address those issues.
Or, if you agreed to do a task a certain way but they’re having trouble doing so, it could indicate that they do not have the right skills or enough experience to complete the task.
What will you be working on today?
This question is asked to achieve team alignment. It lets you know what every member plans to work on and how they’ll contribute to the project’s overall progress.
Asking this question can reveal dependencies. For example, a team member’s task might rely on the completion of another.
Openly discussing these during the daily standup allows the team to reprioritize tasks if necessary.
If you’ve identified a dependency or an otherwise time-sensitive task, you can take timely action.
To give you an example, if you need to urgently fix a critical bug, you can tell a developer to postpone working on their other task and deal with the bug first.
Finally, duplicate work can be avoided by discussing everyone’s planned tasks for the day.
Openly discussing which task each team member will be working on alerts anyone who might be thinking of taking on the same task so they can take on a different task.
The bottom line is that the question can help speed development dramatically by keeping everyone on the same page.
Are there any blockers in your way?
This question is critical for uncovering issues early on before they become big enough to derail your project.
Mostly, these blockers are technical. For example, a team member might be using the wrong tool to solve a particular problem.
Sometimes, though, the blockers are personal. A developer might be going through something with their family or personal life which is affecting their work performance.
Whatever the problem, you should encourage members to speak up about it. This allows someone else who’s already encountered the same problem to help.
Or the person could tap into the collective problem-solving skills of the group.
But, again, be careful not to turn the daily standup into a full-blown problem-solving session.
A 15-minute meeting is enough to tackle the smallest of issues. And that’s okay. Remember, the goal of daily standups is to alert the team of potential roadblocks.
Fixing them will often require setting up a dedicated meeting.
Can remote teams have daily standup meetings?
The answer is yes! It’s entirely possible.
However, the approach you should take will depend on whether you plan on holding synchronous or asynchronous standups.
Agile Organization Development
The traditional method, synchronous daily standups, is preferred if everyone on the team is in the same or similar time zone. This is possible when you’re
onshoring or nearshoring your team.
Here, you’ll set a time for the daily standup that works for everyone, and the standup will be done through video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google Meet.
For the most part, nothing much changes compared to a face-to-face daily standup meeting. You’ll still go through the three questions over a video call with developers.
However, with asynchronous daily standups, this isn’t the case. Your team members may be so geographically distant their working hours have little to no overlap.
This means that having a video call isn’t feasible, which makes asynchronous standups the most viable option for teams who live in different time zones or have flexible working schedules.
In place of a real-time meeting, you’ll have an online platform (we’ll discuss a few below) to post the three daily standup questions.
You should then give members a deadline on when they can answer them.
When it comes to asynchronous standups, setting aside some time for participants to socialize is beneficial.
It helps build interpersonal connections even when team members aren’t able to communicate in real time.
And it doesn’t even need to take up too much time. Simply asking how everyone’s weekend was is good enough.
However, we still recommend having at least one weekly synchronous meeting on top of asynchronous standups. This is where you can discuss weekly priorities and urgent issues.
What tools are used for running daily standups?
You can use several tools to facilitate your daily standups.
Jell is perhaps one of the best because it’s designed specifically around daily standups and the three questions format.
Aside from letting team members answer these questions easily, Jell is also a fantastic monitoring tool.
You can keep track of each member’s progress and goals via their answers. You can also measure overall metrics, like how many tasks your team finished in a period.
Best of all, Jell integrates well with tools like Jira, Slack, and Microsoft Teams.
Another good tool is
Range. It allows members to check in and give updates no matter what app they use because of Range’s many integration options.
This tool is invaluable if you want to objectively monitor the completion of tasks to always stay in the know.
Finally, you can use
Geekbot, a plug-in for Slack.
This AI-driven tool allows you to conduct daily standups easily in Slack, using templates, automated questions, and prompts.
It’s a great option if you don’t want to add another tool your team will have to learn how to use.
The daily standup is just one piece of the puzzle.
There’s no denying the value that daily standups provide to development teams.
Keeping your team in sync significantly improves the chances of completing your app development project on time, within budget, and with fewer issues along the way.
Of course, the daily standup is just one of the many
types of meetings you’ll need to have throughout development.
But by knowing how to do them, you’ll start your project off on the right foot, and development is sure to progress more easily!