Daily standup meetings, or Scrums, are great ways to help teams boost both productivity and communication. These short meetings are held at the same time and place each day so team members can talk about their goals and blockers and the discussion can stay action-oriented.
Unfortunately, these standup meetings sometimes get a reputation for wasting time. Yet for others, Scrums are essential to the productivity of their companies. It can be easy to fall into bad habits with Scrums that make them seem unhelpful, leading many teams to cast them aside.
Here are some of our top tips to get rid of bad habits and keep your Scrums running as efficiently as possible.
Stand, Don’t Sit
One of the easiest ways to maximize your standups is to literally stand up. Staying on your feet keeps you alert and focused, whereas sitting down tells your brain it can relax and makes people complacent.
Research has shown that many teams have productive standups when they’re standing up. You can achieve the same effect by asking your team to stand up during meetings, or removing chairs from the room completely.
Keep a Question Template
Knowing what you need to talk about helps cut out unnecessary waffling in meetings. One way to do this is to have a series of set questions that you ask every meeting to quickly bring everyone up to speed. These can just be simple points, like what did you do yesterday, what do you plan on doing today, and did you have any blockers yesterday.
This template gives team members a format to follow so they can stay on task and know what they need to discuss in order to be as productive as possible.
Humans have unique responses to music; we can tie certain songs to memories, and listening to different songs can trigger different emotions in us. You can use this to your advantage in the workplace by starting your daily Scrums with a specific song.
Using the same song or theme to cue each of your standups can trigger a Pavlovian response that helps bring your team into “Scrum” mode. Depending on the music you choose, it can also help start the meeting on a light note. We recommend choosing something upbeat or inspirational to best get this effect.
Make Your Standups Work for Everyone
If your meeting schedule doesn’t work for your whole team, you’re going to run into problems. Employees will be less willing to participate in standups, and morale will be lower. If team members have to interrupt their workflow to attend these meetings, this will be even worse as they will be frustrated at having to stop mid-task and thus be unprepared.
Make sure that your Scrum takes place at a time (or day) that works for everyone. While this magic time might not be apparent from the beginning, it can benefit everyone if you do a little testing to find it. Try Scrums first thing in the morning. Try holding them after lunch. Try holding them in the afternoon. Once you find the right time, it will be worth it.
More importantly, once you find the right time, stick to it. Consistency is key with standups as it helps build a routine.
Maintain a Strict Time Limit
One of the biggest problems people report about Scrum meetings is how much time they can take. Fifteen-minute Scrums can turn into half an hour or forty-five-minute Scrums, wasting precious workday time that could better be used actually getting tasks done.
A major reason for this wasted time is waffling. When people are unprepared and haven’t been given a time limit to aim for, they have a tendency to ramble and go off-topic, and in turn leave out the things they actually need to say.
But if team members know they only have a few minutes to speak, they are more likely to get the important things out of the way first and better prepare for their time slot. And the more they settle into this routine, the easier it is to stay under time.
You may need to be harsh about cutting people off if they go over that limit, but it can free up a huge amount of time in your standups.
Keep Standup Teams Small
Standups with too many people can get messy and complicated. The more people are involved, the less time each has to talk about their blockers and issues, often leaving these things unsolved and affecting future goals. This means that tasks can fall through the cracks, affecting the team’s overall sense of accountability.
Some people suggest keeping standups to about ten people, but that number will be different for each company. This might mean holding one Scrum for your entire team, or splitting your team up into multiple Scrum teams and then holding one master Scrum to share information. Find out what works for you and stick to it.
Use an Automated Standup Bot
One of the best ways to make in-person standups easier is to use an automated Scrum bot to take care of the prep work for you. There are many tools you can download on chat platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams that will automatically collect standup answers from your team and make in-person Scrums flow even better.
One such tool is ScrumGenius, which integrates with Slack, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams to send each member of your team automated Scrum prompts each day and then delivers their answers directly to your inbox via a summary report. This means that your standups can instead focus on planning for the future and solving problems standing in the way of workflow, meaning you and your team can get more work done.
What tips do you use to maximize your Scrum meetings?