Daily Stand-Up Meetings

agile team in a stand up meeting

If you use an Agile approach to manage your company’s projects, you might be asked to hold daily stand-up meetings. These brief meetings allow team members and stakeholders to touch base and get on the same page about how projects are going, without going into all of the granular details.

But what exactly does a daily stand-up meeting entail, and how should these meetings be run? The following tips will help you lead an effective daily stand-up that informs, holds your team accountable, and stays on topic.

Download the guide to Agile

What is the daily stand-up meeting in Agile?

A daily stand-up meeting is an opportunity for the project team to discuss a project’s progress at a high level. These meetings last 15 minutes and allow each contributor to report on their accomplishments since the last stand-up meeting.

True to its name, all participants in stand-ups usually remain standing to keep the meetings short and on-topic. However, digital stand-ups are also possible. Making sure there’s a repeatable agenda is the best way to keep either format of a daily stand-up meeting running smoothly.

In Agile project management, daily stand-up meetings are essential. These meetings allow project members to share critical information, openly discuss issues, and hold themselves and each other accountable. The collaboration and transparent level of communication can also lead to improved team dynamics, which can make completing a project together more productive and enjoyable for all.

Types of Agile stand-up meetings

Depending on whether you’re using the Scrum or Kanban approach for Agile, your daily stand-up meetings will look a little different. Here’s what to expect in each type of Agile stand-up meeting:

Scrum stand-ups

Scrum stand-ups are 15-minute daily meetings that occur each day of the sprint to discuss progress and quickly note any issues. Each contributor answers three questions:

These three questions hold team members accountable to their tasks and commitments by encouraging small, achievable goals that are shared with the team. They also allow team members to discuss problems, challenges, and setbacks openly, so no one is left in the dark.

Kanban stand-ups

If you’re using the Kanban approach to project management, the focus of daily stand-up meetings will be slightly different. First, you’ll want to pull up the Kanban visual workflow so that the project manager or lead can identify any bottlenecks.

Kanban focuses on eliminating bottlenecks before or as they pop up, so figuring out where problems may be occurring or where capacity challenges might begin to appear is crucial in these meetings.

There are no three questions to answer in the Kanban-style stand-up meeting. Instead, these daily stand-ups should focus on identifying issues and solving them, rather than discussing what everyone is working on. The visual board allows everyone to quickly see where tasks are, sparing team members from needing to detail where they are in the project flow.

Guide: Agile Marketing Cheat Sheet

Guide: The Complete Guide to Agile Marketing

Benefits of daily Agile stand-ups

No matter which approach you use, daily stand-ups allow team members to work collaboratively toward project goals. While Scrum stand-ups focus on completing the sprint’s goals, Kanban stand-up meetings work toward correcting bottlenecks before they slow down production.

Daily stand-up meetings are important for keeping Agile teams focused and on-task while providing quick, project-level updates to the rest of the team. These daily check-ins hold all team members accountable for their part in a project by looking at their current workflow and monitoring where they are on certain tasks or items. Because the Agile methodology is all about versatility and flexibility, it’s important to make tweaks and improvements to your meetings to fit your team’s needs. Your daily stand-up should inform and draw out issues so that you can keep your project on track and get ahead of issues before they pop up.

Common stand-up mistakes

While stand-up meetings can be time-saving meetings, it’s easy for them to spin out of control if not managed properly. Here are some common mistakes that cause stand-up meetings to veer off course.

1. Not following the agenda

Since these daily meetings only last 15 minutes, staying on schedule is crucial. For instance, in Scrum stand-ups, team members’ answers to the three questions should be quick and concise. If an issue requires further discussion, it should be added to a list (sometimes called a parking lot list) to be discussed in more detail later. Your parking lot list can be written on a whiteboard, typed into a digital document, or added to your work management software, depending on the platform you use. Allowing team members to add items to this parking lot list outside of the daily stand-up can ensure your meeting progresses as planned.

Team members don’t need to describe in detail every task they’re accomplishing. Instead of going in-depth about each of the 25 webpage templates the developer is working on, he or she can note that the first half of the website templates will be built before the next meeting. This puts the task in context and highlights high-level progress that all participants can easily understand.

Likewise, Kanban stand-up meetings should only address issues or challenges and not focus on what each team member is working on. The visual Kanban board allows team members to quickly see where tasks are and who is working on them, so adding this repetitive step can pull valuable time away from investigating challenges.

2. Not identifying repeating issues

If one team member has the same status update or mentions the same bottleneck every meeting, you have some following up to do.

For instance, in a Scrum stand-up meeting, if your web copywriter reports that they spent yesterday researching, will spend today researching, and has no issues to report, but seems to be making little progress, you may want to meet with them separately after the stand-up. Find out what’s being researched, how much more research is left, and if any hurdles are preventing them from moving on to the copywriting phase.

As the project manager or Scrum Master, it’s your job to ensure these meetings serve their intended purpose, so addressing any issues as soon as they’re spotted will be important.

3. Not attending meetings daily

It’s important to hold your daily stand-up meetings at the same time each day, within reason. If there’s one day a week where it’s impossible to meet at the same time, you can accommodate, but consistency is key to this type of meeting.

Since stand-up meetings are so quick, team members may think it’s OK to skip them and provide their updates or issues ahead of time. Allowing team members to miss these meetings and email you their tasks and challenges could  cause others to start skipping out as well, if they feel they’re no longer mandatory. This can lead to some team members missing valuable project updates and being left out of the loop on changes or challenges.

To avoid this, require daily attendance from everyone. For anyone who works remotely or is traveling, set up a conference line, so they can present their updates wherever they are. Since this is only a 15-minute meeting, everyone should be able to make time for it, even if they’re on the road.

4. Not establishing whose turn it is to speak

The silence between team member updates can eat up time and cause meetings to feel slightly awkward and disorganized. If you’re meeting in person, you can have team members pass a ball or other object around the table until everyone with tasks has a chance to speak.

5. Not showing your task board

It’s important to display the task board for that day, week, or sprint—whether it’s on a whiteboard or in your work management system—during the entire meeting. In Scrum meetings, this gives team members the chance to speak up if user stories (also known as tasks) or story points (also known as hours) have been over/underestimated and really focus on the goals for that sprint. In Kanban, the visual flow is important when identifying bottlenecks.

Projecting or screen sharing your project management tool during this meeting will also allow others who are not reporting to better understand the current state of the project and see which tasks are being worked on when.

Datasheet: How Workfront Helps Teams Transition to Agile At Their Own Pace

Whitepaper: What's Keeping Marketers From Going Agile?

Stand-up meetings for distributed teams

Even if your team is distributed or includes remote contributors, it’s still important to include everyone in your daily stand-up meetings. Add video conferencing lines to your meeting invites and make sure there’s a clear agenda that can be viewed at the beginning of the meeting. Then share the work board digitally so everyone can see the items in the sprint or the cards in your Kanban flow.

When meeting virtually, it can be more difficult to “pass the ball,” so create a list of names to ensure each person speaks about their tasks in order and no one’s talking over anyone else. The project manager may want to announce each name, prompting that person to share.

Lastly, you can invite remote participants to review the board ahead of time and come to the meeting prepared to follow the agenda, to keep meetings concise and impactful.

Better meetings create better projects

Daily stand-up meetings are essential for any Agile project. Since stand-ups are only 15 minutes, you can keep your team focused and productive by sticking to the agenda, preparing updates ahead of time, and scheduling follow-up meetings to discuss any individual challenges that arise.