Effective daily meetings

17 April 2019, Łukasz Maczułajtys

Daily Scrum, daily stand-up, daily huddle – many names, same idea. But does everyone understand it? During my career I’ve seen many teams and their daily meetings. Some of them were short and productive, others were long and aimless. I would like to share my observations and share some tips that can make your meetings more effective and encourage people to participate.

Idea

Main idea of daily meeting is to bring everyone up to date on key activities of each team member. It’s not a status meeting for a project manager or a technical leader. Don’t report to your supervisor. Talk to your teammates and listen what they say.

Three questions

Every participant should answer three questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you going to do today?
  • Is there any impediment?

Focus on tasks you finished or will finish today. Talking about work in progress brings nothing new. You don’t have to answer every question. You don’t have to answer at all if you haven’t done anything important for your team (e.g. you performed planned migration to a new laptop).

Other common mistake is telling: “I don’t know yet what I’ll be doing today. I’ll find something”. Be prepared for the meeting. Recall the last activity you’ve completed and plan your work for rest of the day. You’ll need only five minutes before meeting to do that.

Same place

Every meeting should take place in the same spot. Team members should know where the meeting occurs. Searching of free room every day is also a waste of time.

A perfect place for your “daily” is somewhere near to your team’s desks. It helps in increasing attendance rate and decreases the time of being detached from work. Choose one that has enough space for all participants. Pay attention if there are no distractors nearby. Kitchen full of people or chill room with video consol are not the best choice.

Same time

Daily meeting is a good opening of a working day, so mornings work well. Choose a timeslot that fits best all team members. If you’ve chosen a slot, stick to it. Always start your meeting at the same time. Don’t wait for laggers. It doesn’t matter who’s late. If people have difficulty arriving on time, discuss again your meeting timeframes.

The best way to make it happen is to send a recurring invite with a reminder to all participants so that they have it in their calendars. Popup from a calendar 5 minutes before the meeting, will remind everyone about the “daily”.

Timebox

Scrum defines 15 minutes timebox for Daily Scrum. It’s optimal time to keep participants focused on the meeting. It also does not disorganize people’s work.

If your team is too big to fit in a 15-minute timebox, you should probably think of splitting it into separate meetings. This will help people to focus on common tasks (I don’t believe that more than ten people actually work on same topics).

Every team member should talk briefly. There may be some short discussions but if it takes longer than half a minute, it should be taken offline and continued after meeting.

Having a watch in a visible place helps fitting in time. You can also try using a timer but it can create a stressful atmosphere. I noticed that people are often proud of holding short, effective meeting.

Sitting or standing?

My experience shows that standup meetings improve focus of participants on topics discussed. People speak more concisely and others are better listeners. But nothing by force. If there is a lot of space to sit in the meeting place, some participants may prefer to sit. Make sure you feel comfortable in your meeting.

Remote teams

Many people work remotely these days. This should not prevent from holding daily meetings if you stick a few simple rules.

You probably use some conference call software. If possible, use same virtual meeting room/conference. Add conference url/number to calendar invitation so that everyone can find it quickly.

Everyone should turn their cameras on. A video call brings a more human touch to the meeting. Team members don’t try to multitask during the call.

As at any conference call, there should be one facilitator.

Tips&tricks

Use a totem object that indicates who can speak. It can be a ball, a pen or a rubber chicken, whatever works best for you. A person who finishes speaking, passes the totem to a next participant to take over.

If you use a ball, it can also be thrown to a teammate chosen to speak next. Noone knows their turn, so everyone stays focused.

The totem object should always be in the same place not to search for it before every meeting.

If a team manager participates in the meeting, he or she usually gives an update on things/topics not related directly to the current tasks. That person should speak as the last one then.

Get down to work!

I hope this article helps you in finding the best way to hold your daily meetings. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Just check if it brings positive results.

 

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