Stand-up meetings are a core part of product management. A stand-up meeting might also be called a scrum, huddle, roll call, progress report, or countless other names.
Whatever you call it, if you’re running a team, you’ll want to learn how to run a standup meeting, and how to run it well. And stand-ups aren’t limited to product management. Any kind of team can utilize daily stand-up meetings to keep everyone on the same page and be more productive.
Read on to learn all you need to know about how to run stand-up meetings, tips to improve your meetings and common mistakes to avoid.
What is a Stand-up Meeting?
A stand-up meeting is a short meeting, generally held once a day, where team members take turns to update the rest of the team on their progress.
Stand-ups are most commonly used in product or project management and software development teams. However, with the rise of remote work and agile teams in all areas of business, stand-ups are no longer limited to just product teams.
In a stand-up meeting, one team member at a time shares their accomplishments, goals and obstacles, related to what they’re currently working on. If there are any issues, other team members can help them work through it.
Traditionally, in an office-based team, the stand-up meeting would have the entire team gather in the meeting room or conference room, and each team member would stand up to present their report - hence the name.
But today, it’s more common for these meetings to happen remotely (via Zoom for example), or even asynchronously. So actually "standing up" is not necessary.
How to Run a Stand-up Meeting
During a stand-up meeting, scrum, or huddle, the figurative torch is passed to each team member to answer some variation of each of these three questions:
- What did you accomplish yesterday? (or today, if the meeting comes at the end of the day)
- What will you do today/tomorrow?
- Is there anything blocking your progress?
There can be discussion from the rest of the team on any points raised (particularly if the team member brings up any obstacles). But stand-ups are meant to be rapid-fire, with the entire meeting finishing up in 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of the team).
Stand-ups are usually held every day - most often the start of the day, but sometimes at the end. They could also be done weekly, every other day, or at whatever interval suits the type of tasks and projects your team works on.
The Benefits of Holding Regular Stand-up Meetings
A lot of teams have too many meetings as it is. But daily stand-up meetings (assuming they’re run the right way), are a really effective tool, and worth using even if you're trying to reduce the overall time your team spends in meetings.
Here are some of the key benefits:
Keeps people on track
A daily stand-up meeting forces people to keep track of their daily tasks. Many already do this on their own, with personal productivity tools and/or to-do lists. But many more fall into the trap of not planning out their day and just coasting from clock in to clock out, without getting much done.
When you have to stand up and present what you’re doing each day, you really need to put some effort into planning your daily to-dos. You’ve also got the rest of your team keeping you accountable, which is an amazing motivator.
You need to know what the rest of your team is doing, in order to work together more effectively.
If you know what everyone else is doing, you can make sure that your tasks don’t step on the toes of what other team members are working on. Alternatively, you could also see that someone else’s tasks are related to yours, and you can collaborate to both work more efficiently.
Regular check-ins ensure all team members' workloads are open and transparent. You’re able to see how much is on each person's plate - whether someone is drowning under too much work, or another has a light workload by comparison.
This is particularly important with remote team members, where it’s harder to gauge how productive someone is. A daily stand-up gives a clear view into what and how much remote employees do each day.
Helps overcome obstacles quicker
One of the best things you can get out of your daily stand-up is helping other team members (or yourself) get unstuck.
If someone can’t be productive because they’re waiting on something from another team member, or because there’s a problem they haven’t been able to work out, the team can address this obstacle and help the person in question get back on track.
The social element
If nothing else, daily stand-ups (particularly in remote teams) give everyone a moment to connect, human to human.
Even though the meeting may only be 10 minutes, with a few words from each person, it helps break up what can be a lonely and disconnected environment in modern startups. In a hybrid workplace, distributed team members can easily feel left out. While fully distributed teams can easily go days without any person-to-person contact.
Just a dash of social interaction at the beginning or end of each day can be enough to stave off feelings of isolation and low motivation that come when you work alone in front of a screen all day.
5 Tips for Effective Stand-up Meetings
There are stand-up meetings, and then there are great stand-up meetings. You want yours to be in the second group.
To help you get more out of your stand-up meetings, take these 5 tips on board:
Stick to the template
If you ask people to just get up and share whatever that comes to mind, you’re going to receive a lot of off-topic, unimportant information.
Don’t lose sight of what you want to get out of your stand-up meeting. You want to get updates on everyone’s project or task-related accomplishments, goals, and obstacles.
Have a template with a few questions (such as those we mentioned above), which each person answers in turn. And don't stray from the template.
Have someone to lead the meeting
Even with prompts, your meetings could still go off the rails at some point. The meeting needs a leader, whose job it is to keep it on topic and direct the floor to each person when it’s their turn.
This will help things move sharply from person to person, and avoid a whole lot of meandering “ok, who wants to speak now?”
The leader will generally be whoever is in charge of the project, team or department. Though you could also experiment giving different people the responsibility of running the meeting to help people grow and improve leadership skills.
Infuse a bit of energy
Meetings can be dull. And it can be even worse with scrum meetings, which are usually either held at the beginning of the day, when people are still waking up, or at the end of the day, when they have one foot out the door.
That’s why you want the person in charge to have a bit of energy and positivity. Their energy is infectious, and helps get more of a response from the rest of the team and more value from the meeting as a whole.
It’s important that a daily stand-up meeting is inclusive for the whole team. Everyone should give an update on what they’re working on and any obstacles they’re facing. They should also stick around to hear everyone else speak.
If you find you’ve got too many team members to get through, break meetings up into smaller groups. 3 to 8 people is generally the sweet spot where stand-ups are most effective.
Keep it short and to the point
Always come back to the fact that stand-ups are supposed to be short and sharp. No one wants another 1-2 hour meeting every day, and letting it go too long will just make it harder to stick to the most important issues.
Likewise, try not to let discussions go on too long or drift off topic. Some obstacles or problems may warrant longer discussion, but if this is the case, make a point to address the problem in a smaller group after the meeting.
Common Stand-up Meeting Mistakes to Avoid
Most mistakes that teams make with daily meetings are the same mistakes that tend to be made over and over again.
Avoiding these mistakes will help you go a long way to running better stand-ups. Let’s take a look at a few:
Going too long
You may have all the right intentions, but when people start talking, meetings start to drag. It’s easy to linger on a particular issue for too long, and all of a sudden your 15 minute standup has been going for 35 minutes - and you’re only halfway through.
This is where you need a clear template, a small number of people in the meeting, and a leader to make sure it doesn’t run longer than necessary. If you need to make another meeting to address a single issue that’s fine - but keep your daily stand-up meeting short and sharp.
Going off topic
Similarly, it’s easy to stray off topic. This distracts from the focus of the meeting, and also contributes to stand-ups going too long. Once again, you’ve got to think short and sharp.
Off-topic chat shouldn’t be barred from the workplace, and there’s definitely a place for casual chit-chat in some meetings. But with stand-ups, strive to keep it to just the essentials.
Holding back roadblocks or obstacles
The main purpose of your daily standup meeting is to get team members unstuck.
It’s fine if someone forgets or happens to leave out a task they did yesterday or something that’s coming up, but you don’t want anyone keeping an issue or obstacle to themselves. It’s vital that everyone shares anything that may be in the way of them moving forward and being productive.
A common reason this happens is when people don’t feel that it’s a safe space to be honest and open. Make an effort to avoid any personal or critical talk in this meeting; if an obstacle is because of something the team member doesn’t know, or a mistake they made, it’s best for the team if they feel safe to share this and find a solution.
Not following up on key issues
It’s great that you identify obstacles or issues that warrant further discussion. But you need to make sure you actually follow up and address these issues once the daily standup meeting is over.
As mentioned already, you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole with every issue during the meeting. So it’s important for someone (generally the meeting lead) to make a note to go back to the issue later.
It may warrant a separate meeting, or a discussion in a Slack channel. Whatever it is, make sure you take action on anything that comes up during the meeting.
Failing to think about team members in different time zones
A 2021 survey found that 59% of remote companies had employees across 2-5 time zones. And only 2% of remote companies had all their staff in the same time zone.
If your team has people based in different locations, consider how you can make it fair and easy for everyone to participate in stand-up meetings.
For some teams, this might mean rotating time slots so the same people aren’t always having to log in late at night.
The reason for this is not just to be fair to everyone in your team. It’s also to ensure everyone stays engaged and delivers value to your daily scrum.
When some people always have to join at 9pm, you’ll find they rarely contribute much. Giving them the meeting at a reasonable time may end up unearthing important issues or discussion points that would otherwise be left out.
Communication and collaboration is key for any team. And while death by meetings is a thing, you still want regular check-ins to keep everyone on the same page, and bring any problems to light quickly.
That’s what stand-up meetings are for. If you’re a product manager or project manager, you’ll want to utilize daily stand-ups to keep your team aligned and on track to deliver quality results on time.
Even if your team is in something like marketing, sales or support, you might find a lot of value in regular stand-up meetings, helping your team work better together and be more productive.
Take the tips from this post and use them to help your team run better stand-ups. At the same time, check that your team has the right tools to communicate with your customers and bring critical issues, bugs or feature ideas to your next scrum meeting.
Try FeedBear free today to start collecting customer feedback and know which tasks your team should execute on first.