The Morning Standup Ceremony

Some of us have our rituals that kickstart our days. For plenty of teams out there, their morning standup meeting has become just that. Since how you begin your day determines whether it will turn out to be a great day or not, a good standup meeting with your team will have positive effects.

What is it?

The purpose of this meeting is to frame the team’s endeavours for that day for everyone’s benefit. These meetings are typically held every single day at the same time, ideally at the start of the work day, and all team members are expected to attend. This meeting can be held at the same location or remotely via video.

You don’t really need to be standing up.

The morning standup is also known as the daily Scrum meeting, or just Scrum. I prefer using the phrase Stand Up, but just for variety I will be using all these terms interchangeably in this post.

How do you do it?

During the meeting each person speaks in turn and answers the following

  • What did they work on yesterday?
  • What will they be working on today?
  • Are there any blocking issues?

A civil, quick and efficient standup builds a tight and concrete relationship among team members over time. It is what each team member has committed to, to another team member, or to the daily progress.

By having each team member mention what they had been up to on the previous day and current day, a clear picture is painted for everyone’s benefit on what work has been done already and what remains to be accomplished.

Each team member takes their turn on addressing the above bullet points. It could take approximately 15 minutes for a 5–7 person team so 3ish minutes per person.

These meetings are self-directed and are not lead by a single person. Be creative in figuring out who starts and who speaks next. What time should they start? Let me just throw 10am out there.

Some Standup Etiquette

Below is an arbitrary non-exhaustive list of certain accepted behaviours for social situations. Maybe you could apply them to your own teams standup.

  • Be civil, on your best behaviour, and have fun.
  • Be on time. Ideally be a minute or two early. A meeting takes 15 minutes. If you arrive 3 minutes late you’ll have missed what one of your team mates has said.
  • Be prepared. You should be able to answer the three questions with little conscious thought. Reflexively one might say.
  • Pay attention and don’t take notes.
  • Leave your phone, tablet, device, smart watch and laptop out of arms reach.
  • Stick to your allotted 3 minutes but don’t cut other people of if they exceed this limit. Encourage time economy privately after the meeting. You can probably do the same privately for those late arrivers too.

In other words be a good communicator, show good manners and be respectful to others.

What a standup isn’t

Some sort of Status Report

This is about a team communicating with itself. It is not about reporting individually to a boss or a director, nor is it about a manager collecting information from the team; typically to see what’s running late.

A problem solving session or an issue resolution meeting

Maybe you have run into an issue or two with you current task. Maybe you are having trouble in one of your implementations. Or maybe there is a tough problem you are tackling and need to pick a brain or to ask for some advice from someone else who knows the subject very well. All this and much more can be carried out immediately after the meeting at your own time at your own pace. Use the meeting as a vehicle to bring up issues which you will resolve later.

A social meeting

Beyond the stand up lies an entire day for that. Lunch too.

Typical obstacles to an effective standup

There is some minutiae that determine whether your own standup meeting is useful, effective and moves your team forward, or a poor attempt that doesn’t reach its full potential. These include:

Not listening to or not paying attention to your teammates.

Actively listening will raise the quality of your meeting and have it fulfil it’s goal which is to communicate what work has been done and what remains to be carried out. Not listening will most likely have the opposite effect and be dispiriting to the person talking.

Evolve beyond the 3 question format

If you have moved on from the three question format maybe it’s time to reconsider going back to it. The scrum meeting is formulated this way because it provides the maximum communication benefit in the shortest amount of time. Don’t give up on the true capability of the standup.

Repeating the same daily task as the day before

Feel free to ask if something is holding them up. Maybe there is a blocking issue involved. Be helpful in asking them if they need help and work with them after the standup. And this is also why we have daily standup meetings.

Even with these, I should point out that a standup meeting is never a waste of time.

The benefits of a Morning Standup

Over time these meetings will result into followup conversations among the team thus improving communication and shared knowledge in areas outside individual members domain. This leads to a better understanding of the bigger picture pursuant to the product, service or process you’re developing.

To the point

Morning Standup Ceremonies are one of the great ways teams have to communicate their tasks, share their knowledge and overall improve their collaboration and race past their goals. Get their full benefit by simply answering the three simple questions together daily along with using the simple recommendations above. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Always try to have fun.

Cover photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

More by Dimitri James Tsiflitzis

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