What are Daily Standup Meetings? (And can you have them virtually?)

Daily Standup meetings, also known as daily “Huddles,” are a tool for focusing a team on their work for the day.  Standups are well known in the lean world – often in a manufacturing setting where production teams would literally stand around a white board or message board and align on their priorities.  These meetings are also well known in Agile environments, where Scrum or Kanban teams gather to review their priorities and commitments to each other.

Standups, whether held in person or virtually, are designed to be short – hence the standing format.

Can’t get too comfortable when standing, so it forces the team to focus. 

Typically, there are three questions, and they can be used for any team working for any desired result:

  1. What did you get done yesterday?
  2. What will you commit to doing today?
  3. Are there any roadblocks or barriers that may prevent you from meeting your commits?

These three questions align the team in three distinct and important ways:

First – to hold each person accountable for what they said they would do in front of a group.

Often this is enough to motivate people to get past procrastination or distraction to get things done – they’ve made a public declaration of what they’ll do, and others are counting on them.

Second – to allow for a thoughtful promise to complete the next most important aspects of the work.

Third – to swarm around issues that may prevent successful completion of committed work; and allow the team to brainstorm ways to mitigate these barriers.

While it may seem like this is too much attention to a subject or team, it turns out that it is a great way to maintain accountability *without* micromanaging people.  

The team commits, the discussion of roadblocks is proactive and non-judgmental, and the other team members offer support and ideas for how to remove barriers.  The leader or facilitator (Scrum Master, Agile Project Manager, or Team Lead in general) can take these consolidated suggestions to higher level managers who can help clear roadblocks. The barriers become transparent and the issues surface, so expectations shift to become realistic over time, and the whole organization engages in continuous improvement.

From personal experience, it can be VERY HARD to be the “bad” guy who is always escalating issues and problems. The important thing to remember is that this is about the PROCESS and is not personal. These issues would exist with or without the team escalating them as they arise. It is possible to remain, professional and even friendly while dealing with real process or technical issues.  The larger team may bond more by overcoming shared challenges together.  Always keep the greater good in mind!

To answer the second question about virtual meetings:  

YES, it can be very productive to hold Standup meetings virtually! Here are our top 3 Tips:

  1. Start on time – if the meeting is at 9 am, the facilitator starts at 9; someone else can email or text the missing team members to please be on time
  2. Prep a log for what you’ll track and/or roadblocks/actions/escalations ahead
  3. The facilitator can share their screen with the log
  4. The facilitator calls out participants by name to ensure everyone speaks up
  5. If there is a need for longer conversation, those folks can stay on the line AFTER the facilitator lets everyone else go (just like in person when small groups would stay behind to keep working)

The bottom line is that if your team or company has a very important priority that needs to be done in a short period of time, Daily Stand-Up meetings are a great way to increase the pace of achieving results.

Happy Huddling!