Discover all about how to run standup meetings effectively and get your team aligned.
Table of Contents
Standing meetings are nothing new: From the military to industry, people have stayed standing during meetings to encourage quick sharing of information and decision making. The concept of standup meetings that we’re familiar with in Scrum methodology was first articulated by Jim Coplien in the early 90s after observing "hyper-productive" teams that relied on almost daily meetings.*
Fast forward to today and the words “daily meeting” might do little more than indicate a distracting time suck on your calendar. This happens when people don't know how to run a stand-up meeting, letting them run long, go off track, or involve non-essential team members.
However, while people definitely have too many meetings, standups are still valuable to keep people aligned and productive—if you know how to stay laser-focused.
In this post, you’ll get a rundown of nine steps to run more effective standup meetings and achieve your goals. You’ll also discover how Switchboard helps make them more engaging and productive.
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Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more in–and in between–meetings.
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What are the benefits of stand-up meetings?
The benefits of holding regular standup meetings include:
- Alignment: Cross-functional teams like software development depend on each other for their work, so a regular standup meeting keeps everyone updated and aligned.
- Visibility: The standup is a chance to review task statuses and spot roadblocks before they become a problem.
- Teamwork: Standups aren’t intended for team building, but getting everyone together to talk boosts cohesion, collaboration, and is an opportunity to support each other.
- Productivity: Getting alignment and help with challenges lets you move faster as a team.
- Accountability and ownership: Sharing what you’ll be working on today makes you accountable for having achieved it tomorrow.
9 steps to run more effective stand-up meetings
Let’s take a look at how to run more effective standups, before, during, and after the team meeting.
Before the meeting
Standup meetings don’t require a huge amount of preparation. People know what they’re working on or struggling with and just need to come ready to share that. However, as a leader, there are a few things you can do to ensure startup success.
1. Set the time and place
The frequency of standup meetings can vary by team and project, but they usually take place daily.
There’s no hard and fast rule about when you should hold them, but it’s often first thing in the morning.
Dimitri Graf, Manager, Web Development & Design at Canonical says, “Morning is just better, from my perspective, because you’re discussing what you're going to do–and your struggles–and there’s still time to follow up the same day.” For his team, the routine helps them stay organized and get into a collaborative mindset at the start of the day.
You should also hold your standup in the same place each time if you’re meeting in person. This saves time looking for a physical location, which can waste up to 30 mins per day. Meet where work happens, so your discussions have context. For example, if you’re meeting online, you could set up a persistent Switchboard room for daily standups, pulling up your Kanban board and other browser-based tools.
2. Set clear expectations
Every meeting needs an objective and standups are no exception. Every team member should understand the purpose and outcome of the standup meeting and how to structure their updates (more on this later).
Set expectations around punctuality and brevity and make it clear that side discussions will be tabled for another time so you stay on time and on track.
Finally, people are there to engage with and help each other so, if you’re joining in person, leave cell phones in desk drawers. If you’re a distributed team meeting via video conferencing, follow virtual meeting best practices like keeping cameras on and closing other tabs. In Switchboard, you can make the room full screen to eliminate the temptation to multitask.
3. Prepare your tools
Standups should happen where work does, so pull up your tools in advance. There’s nothing worse than spending the first five minutes of a meeting watching people log into apps.
Usually, you’ll have your project management platform or maybe an Excel spreadsheet; whatever gives you visibility into tasks. You could also use an incident tracker to note down blockers and track their resolution.
If you’re using Switchboard, you pull up all your team’s apps, notes, and documents in your persistent room. Then, add agendas, sticky notes, etc. so everyone can explore them side-by-side in multiplayer browsers.
4. See if you can do it async
Standups are intended to get alignment, but that doesn’t mean you all have to be present at the same time. Since 83% of Americans spend up to 12 hours per week in meetings, anytime you can take a meeting async, you give people back more time for focus work.
You can hold an asynchronous standup meeting by creating a Google Doc for each team member to post updates, progress, and blockers. Everyone commits to reading it in the morning before reaching out with offers of help. If you’re using Switchboard, the AI assistant can also summarize room activity and updates to save you time.
During the meeting
Once your meeting kicks off, here are a few standup meeting rules to keep you on track.
5. Assign a leader and timekeeper
Every meeting should have a clear leader to facilitate and keep everyone on track, especially when brevity is key. That might be your team lead, product manager, or Scrum Master. Either way, it’s their job to moderate the meeting and keep it short and to the point by limiting individual updates and knowing when to table side discussions.
A good rule of thumb is that the purpose of the standup is to inform, not discuss. Discussions are part of daily work, so should be saved for another meeting.
Start with a positive
Standup meetings boost teamwork, so starting on a positive sets the right tone. You could open with a fun (but very quick) icebreaker or start by reviewing individual or team wins and progress made on blockers and action items from the previous meeting. Either way, this sets the tone and gets people in the right frame of mind. For example, you might kick off by sharing a positive review from a beta tester, with useful feedback for you to improve the UX.
If you’re in Switchboard, try the automatic icebreaker generator to get you started.
6. Share updates
This is the meat of this meeting and you should choose the standup meeting format that works best for your team. Some people favor a round robin, where you go around the group in order while others prefer to “walk the board” starting with completed tasks and working backward to identify blockers.
Start with any updates that affect the entire team, like changes in project timelines or new priorities, as these may alter what individuals share.
Then, move on to individual updates, which should be a brief update of each team member’s work and challenges. The typical questions for effective standups they should answer are:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What’s blocking you?
Sticking to these questions gets team members to focus on what’s critical. It also allows you to identify roadblocks that could derail or delay the whole project and see where people can help each other.
For example, for a product team working on a new ecommerce app, you might start with the project manager sharing an update on a revised deadline for the beta release. Then, the first developer shares their updates, saying, “Yesterday, I completed the user authentication module. Today, I plan to start on the payment integration. I'm blocked by needing access to the payment gateway API.”
Speaking on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, Enrico Di Cesare, an Agile Facilitator at Cegeka Italia, outlines a fourth possible question, which is whether people understand what they’re doing. This, he says, “is a sort of provocative question, to highlight a situation that you may find sometimes: The purpose of a given task is not clear because the information is not correctly shared and, therefore, the team is not involved in the right way.” Asking this question, therefore, allows you to spot whether efforts could be misdirected because people aren’t clear about why they’re doing something.
The standup is also a chance to identify bottlenecks, stale work, and tasks that are taking longer than usual. This might indicate a lack of resources or a problem with your processes.
7. Make a note of side topics
As mentioned, standups should be very focused, so the meeting facilitator should prevent people from going into too much detail. When people start discussing things, says Graf, “this means they already found a partner to discuss with, which is the main purpose [of the standup]: To find a partner who can help them.” Discussions about how can continue afterward.
Someone should also make a note of any important side topics that come up. For example, if a developer starts getting too deep into the technical challenges of a new feature’s code. If so, this can be shared afterward with the appropriate team members via email or a sticky note in your Switchboard room so they can follow up.
8. Define next steps and action items
Moving your project forward depends on multiple people carrying out dependent tasks in the right order, so the daily standup is a good place to agree on priorities. However, the need to do this will depend on your project and team.
Usually, says Graf, “there’s a plan for a time period, like two weeks, and everyone knows it already,” so people are clear about priorities. However, he says, “if it’s a different type of a project, it might be required to prioritize tasks daily. For example, if there’s an important milestone, you can’t wait two weeks… You can [prioritize] during the meeting, as people talk. Like, they’ll say, ‘I'm working on this task,’ and you figure out whether it has to be done today or can wait till tomorrow.”
As well as priorities, have someone make a note of any action items that come up and commit to sharing them with the team afterward. For example, if you’re working on an urgent update due to a security vulnerability, a team member might share that they’re currently focusing on patching the login module. Then, the facilitator can prioritize that task for today and push less urgent ones, like UI enhancements for the next day.
After the meeting
Whether or not you need to follow up after your standup meeting will depend on what comes out of it.
9. Follow up
Graf says, “If you discover a problem that requires a longer discussion, that's the follow up, right? Someone then has a task to schedule a meeting.”
You should also share side topics, action items, and priorities with relevant team members so they can continue their discussion. You could do this via email, over Slack, or by posting them in your Switchboard room. If anyone missed the meeting or needs to jog their memory, all your notes, room recordings, and files are right there.
Common mistakes to avoid with daily stand-up meetings
As well as knowing how to run a standup meeting, it helps to be aware of some mistakes to avoid. For example:
- Letting it get too big: The purpose of a standup is to boost alignment and collaboration between members of the same team, so all the attendees should work closely together on a daily basis. Invite stakeholders who don’t meet that criteria and you risk turning it into a generic status update.
- Letting it run long: If people ramble on or go off at a tangent, the meeting can end up running long and becoming unengaging. Remember, this isn’t the place for problem-solving; it’s the place to bring them to light so team members can follow up with help and solutions afterward.
- Reporting only to the manager: It’s natural to default to the leader, but it’s not a status meeting. Standups are intended for team members to keep each other updated and supported. That means they should deliver their updates to the whole team, not just the product owner or Scrum Master.
- Not recording recurring issues: Standups are gold for identifying blockers. Be sure to track them so you can see whether certain issues occur repeatedly. If so, you may need to adjust your processes.
- Not having established trust and psychological safety: If people don’t feel comfortable talking about their struggles, this could indicate a bigger issue of lack of trust among your team. If so, you need to lead by example and model vulnerability, as well as conduct team building exercises, to create an atmosphere where people can admit they’re struggling. Only then is the standup a valuable exercise.
Effective standup meetings: The key to well-aligned teams
Standing during meetings helps keep them brief, but if your standup meetings feel like you’re enduring military boot camp, it’s time to overhaul them. After all, you have enough meetings on your calendar already, so the ones you do have should be laser-focused.
With standup meetings, that means keeping people aligned and supporting each other without getting distracted. To do this, make it part of your team’s routine by scheduling it at the same time and place every day, which should be where work happens. Set expectations about punctuality, brevity, and how to deliver updates, which helps stop side conversations derailing things. Once all the updates are in, see how people can help each other, agree on action items, and have someone share points from the meeting with the team.
If you’re using Switchboard, you can run your standup meeting in real time or async thanks to persistent rooms that save your work and make everything multiplayer. That means you can pull up all the apps you need, explore them side by side together, or leave notes for each other to check out later.
Have fewer, more productive meetings.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more in–and in between–meetings.
Sign up free
*Daily Meeting, Agile Alliance
Frequently asked questions about how to run a stand up meeting
What is a stand-up meeting
A standup meeting is a short–typically 15 minute–meeting that’s designed to boost alignment between members of the same team. Team members share what they’re working on and their challenges and ask for help.
How do you facilitate a daily stand-up meeting?
You can facilitate a standup meeting by appointing a leader and timekeeper to ensure it’s a short meeting. Meet where work happens (for example, in front of your Kanban board) and get everyone to participate by answering the three standard questions: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What’s blocking you?
How do you make stand-ups fun?
You can make standups fun by trying some creative standup meeting ideas like getting people to give each other’s updates or giving their update using 10 words or less.