Find out how standup meetings can help your teams be more productive—and some dos and donts to run more productive, effective, and engaging ones.
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Back in the early 90s, when Scrum co-creator Jeff Sutherland was trying to get programmers fired up, he showed them videos of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team doing their traditional pre-match ceremony: the haka.*
Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest you perform the haka before your daily meetings, but there are lessons to be learned from the All Blacks. For example, the ability to unite and move as one makes you a force to be reckoned with.
Meetings like daily standups are designed to achieve alignment, but all too often they turn into boring, generic status meetings, which is a waste of time.
People have a lot of meetings, so you need to know how to make the best use of their time. When it comes to standups, that means following certain standup meeting rules to make them more effective. You also need to know how to do more outside of meetings to make them productive—including reducing them or canceling them altogether.
In this post, you’ll get 10 standup meeting rules to make your meetings more effective and engaging. You’ll also learn how Switchboard creates the right environment to run all your meetings in real time or async.
Have fewer, more productive meetings.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more in–and in between–meetings.
Why are standup meetings important?
Standup meetings are important because they help achieve alignment among cross-functional teams whose work depends on each other. For example, in software development, people typically work on long-running, complex projects and need to talk to each other regularly. A daily standup is a chance to do that and get support to resolve issues, which benefits teamwork.
Standups also boost accountability and visibility as the team typically reviews current tasks and deadlines together. This emphasizes how each person’s work depends on others, which promotes ownership. This, plus visibility into task statuses, helps you move product development forward faster with fewer delays.
10 standup meeting rules
Now you know why standups are important, let’s take a look at some rules to follow if you want to make the most of them.
1. Be consistent
You can hold your standup whenever it’s most convenient for you and your team, but many people like them first thing in the morning. According to Dimitri Graf, Manager, Web Development & Design at Canonical, this gets his development team in a collaborative mindset at the start of the day, when there’s still time afterward to follow up and resolve issues. The routine also means standups become automatic, so they take less brain power.
It’s also a good idea to pick a standup meeting format and stick to it. For example, round robin, walking the board from left to right, starting with wins, etc. This way, team members know what to expect, so you don’t waste time explaining what you’re going to do.
Pro tip: Set up a persistent Switchboard room for daily standups and include all your browser-based tools. That way, everyone knows where to meet each day. All your work is saved, so you can pick up where you left off next time.
2. Have a clear leader or facilitator
For 65% of American workers, the host is as important in making meetings productive as the meeting participants. Updates should be delivered to the whole team, rather than the Scrum Master or product owner, but you still need someone to moderate the meeting. It’s their job to ensure people stick to relevant information and don’t deviate from the purpose of the standup meeting: to share updates and get aligned. The host should set expectations around punctuality, and brevity, including that side discussions will be tabled for another time.
For example, if a developer starts detailing a complex bug they encountered, the facilitator can note it down and suggest discussing it in a follow-up meeting with relevant team members.
Depending on your team dynamics and structure, you may want to give them a say in how you run the meeting. For example, ask them if they prefer a consistent leader or would like to take turns.
3. Keep it short
Thirty-seven percent of US employees endure up to 12 hours of video meetings per week, so you should avoid adding to that at all costs.
Standup meetings should be kept short, around 15 mins, with longer discussions, problem-solving, and side topics tabled for another time. Remember, the aim is to inform, not discuss. 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 they can do that are part of their daily work and should take place after the meeting.
Speaking on the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast, Thomas von Busse acknowledges that it can be hard to know when to stop discussions as you never know when they’ll turn into something useful. As a solution, host Vasco Duarte suggests asking team members whether there’s anything you should be handling after the standup, so you don’t miss anything important.
4. Keep it small
According to Shopify’s meeting cost calculator, a 30-minute meeting with three people costs $700-$1,600, rising to $2,000 if a C-level executive joins.
If that’s not enough to convince you of the need to restrict the guest list, try this: Standups are designed to boost alignment and collaboration between members of the same team. Invite stakeholders who don’t work closely with that team every day, and your standup could turn into a generic status update instead.
Graf says, “There’s a limit to the team size that can collaborate productively. If you have five people on a call, they can do something together. If you have 10 people in one team, I’m not sure if they should be one team anymore, because part of the team is not really concerned with what the others are doing…. It makes sense to have a standup when the team works together daily. But if some parts of the team aren’t really involved in daily activities, then it doesn't make sense [to make them attend].”
5. Keep it relevant
Keeping your standup small and short will help you keep it relevant, and vice versa. As mentioned, this isn’t the time or place for long discussions, so make sure your team understands that they should stick to three basic questions for effective standups:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- What challenges are you facing?
Sticking to a variation on these three standup questions lets you:
- Check that everyone’s aligned on priorities and on the right track to achieve your sprint goals
- Spot potential roadblocks and resolve them before they become a problem
- Make sure everyone understands the why behind what they’re doing
Encourage team members to stick to facts and observations about work items that impact the upcoming day’s work or your sprint goals. They should steer clear of personal issues and making assumptions, like “I need help to fix bugs in the code, which shouldn’t take long” as this isn’t helpful.
However, it is acceptable to deal with whole team updates like deadlines that have been brought forward, changes to project specs or timelines, etc. as these will affect what the team works on that day. For example, a team member might say, “Yesterday, I was informed that the client needs an additional feature for user profiles, which extends our timeline for this sprint.”
The basic rule is that if you bring something up, it must be relevant for the whole team and affect their work. If not, it’s best to share in a private conversation.
6. Meet where work happens
Meeting where work happens gives your updates context and helps people keep things relevant. It also means you can jump right into work after the team meeting with less context switching. For example, if work happens in a project management tool, then have your Kanban board ready so you can “walk the board” and check task statuses, identify stale work, and spot roadblocks.
Pro tip: In Switchboard, you can pull up all the browser-based apps your team uses and add agendas, sticky notes, and files to explore them side-by-side and communicate in context—without sharing screens.
7. Establish accountability
Collaboration is important in business, especially for cross-functional teams, and great teamwork relies on strong shared values.
As Scrum Master Toby Rao notes, for a good standup–and good teamwork–people have to feel comfortable sharing challenges: “[being] self-organized or self-managed relies on trust and transparency, when people feel comfortable enough to share their problems with others and allow them to help them to go forward. They're cutting off their egos and saying, ‘Let's succeed together as a team, as opposed to each one of us individually succeeding.’”
The standup is a great place to model and foster that attitude and values.
Encourage team members to acknowledge when someone is waiting on them to complete a task. This promotes ownership and transparency and saves the other person from having to raise it as a blocker, which isn’t always easy. Get them to acknowledge pending items and give a realistic estimate of when they can get it done. This allows others to adjust their work and priorities for the day.
For example, a UI designer might say, “I’m still waiting on the final user flow diagrams from UX to complete the interface design. Can we have an update on the timeline for this?” To which a UX team member might reply, “Those are pending on my end. I encountered some unexpected challenges, but I should have them ready by tomorrow afternoon.”
Beyond that, the team should be encouraged to hold each other accountable by highlighting when anyone isn’t meeting their commitments. Feedback should be about the work, not the person, though and you should always assume the best intentions.
8. Ensure all team members participate
Sixty-seven percent of American employees are distracted during online meetings and 55% of workers admit to checking emails during calls. That’s bad enough in a longer meeting; do it in a 15-minute standup meeting and you’re likely to miss something vital.
To avoid this, establish a virtual meeting culture that provides ways for all team members to join in equally, whether they’re in the office or not. For example, for distributed teams, everyone should be on camera even if they’re physically present in person in the conference room. This ensures everyone can hear what’s being shared and avoids remote team members being excluded by side conversations. Ask everyone to keep cameras on and close other tabs to discourage multitasking. You should also use video conferencing tools that provide a variety of ways for the entire team to participate, like emoji reactions, polls, voting, etc.
If you notice a team member isn’t participating regularly, says Graf, that’s an indication to connect in a 1:1 and find out what’s going on with them. If people are just going through the motions at team level, it could indicate more deep-seated issues with team cohesion. After all, the standup is a microcosm of the team, so if people aren’t sharing, listening, or offering solutions, they probably aren’t doing so outside the meeting either. If this is the case, try running some team building exercises to strengthen connection.
Pro tip: Set up a permanent room in Switchboard for games or the spontaneous “watercooler” moments that help build connected teams.
9. Don’t skip follow-up
Assign someone to make a note of any important side topics that come up during the standup as well as priorities and action items. They should share these with the team afterward and schedule any follow-up meetings that are necessary. You should also make a note of recurring blockers and their resolutions. If people are repeatedly running into the same issues, that might indicate you need to overhaul your processes or allocate resources differently.
Pro tip: Post takeaways from the standup in your Switchboard room so team members can refer back to them anytime. If anyone missed the meeting, they can also hop in async and catch up with the room recording or AI summaries of room activity.
10. Cancel the meeting when necessary
Fifty-six percent of US workers get annoyed by meetings that could’ve been emails, so anytime you can take a meeting async you should do it.
You can run standup meetings async by opening a Google Doc or spreadsheet in your persistent Switchboard room or standup meeting tool. Set a task for people to add their updates each day and commit to reading others’. Then, you could use a dedicated Slack channel or comment thread in Switchboard where they can reach out with offers of help. Doing it this way gets one more meeting off your calendars and gives people back more time for focus work.
You should also cancel or change the standup, says Graf, if it becomes unproductive. If nobody is bringing up blockers, “either everything is perfect, which I doubt, or there’s something wrong with the meeting itself, so the facilitator should change it.”
Other reasons to cancel include emergencies that disrupt the team’s routine or prevent them from doing their usual daily work, making the standup irrelevant.
Stand up meeting rules: Keep your team’s eye on the ball
Inspired by the game of rugby, Scrum methodology has become a popular way of getting teams to work together to move work forward. By putting their heads together for a daily standup meeting, teams can stay aligned, support each other, and move projects forward faster.
However, people have a lot of meetings, so it’s important to make the best use of their time. For standups, try following our 10 standup meeting rules: being consistent; keeping them short, small, and relevant; having a clear leader to keep people on track; and taking them async or canceling them when necessary. You should also establish strong shared values like ownership and transparency, so people feel comfortable sharing their challenges.
To get more out of your standup meetings, you can set up a persistent room in Switchboard and pull up all the browser-based apps your team needs. This lets you meet where work happens, communicate in context, and run standups async to give your team back more time for focus work.
Have fewer, more productive meetings.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more in–and in between–meetings.
Frequently asked questions about stand-up meeting rules
What is a daily standup meeting?
A daily 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 ask for help with their challenges.
How do I run a daily standup meeting?
You run a standup meeting by appointing a leader and timekeeper to keep everyone on track. 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?
What is the etiquette for daily standup meetings?
The etiquette for daily standup meetings is that everyone on the team should attend and share brief updates, being honest about their struggles. Team members should listen actively to each other and offer help when they can. Keep distractions to a minimum, which means no multitasking. Finally, it’s the job of the meeting leader to prevent side conversations derailing the meeting.