loading...
Cover image for How to be awesome at your daily stand-up with 7 steps

How to be awesome at your daily stand-up with 7 steps

pavlosisaris profile image Paul Isaris ・6 min read

This article was originally published at paulisaris.com

Introduction

A daily stand-up meeting is an essential part of many workplaces these days.

Either when following the Scrum methodology or simply
when wanting to tighten the bonds between the team members and stakeholders,
the performance of the daily stand-up can either make or break your day.

Let's be honest here. Every workplace does their stand-ups differently.
But that's really OK! It's not another formal, dull meeting that requires you to stick
to the procedure. On the contrary, stand-up meetings are part of the Agile
approach, meaning that the practices and procedures should be adaptive and flexible.

A good and compact stand-up meeting is a great way to organize a team and plan your day.
However, sometimes the meeting gets a bad rap.
Some even argue it’s an outdated practice and a waste of time.

So, I put together the best tips and tricks to help your daily stand-up meeting run
like a lean, mean, effective machine.

What is a stand-up meeting, to begin with?

According to Wikipedia:

"A stand-up meeting (or simply "stand-up") is a meeting in which attendees typically participate while standing. The discomfort of standing for long periods is intended to keep the meetings short."

But, why on earth would we want to be uncomfortable when having a meeting?

Truth be told, meetings suck. And, especially in the Software Development industry, meetings suck big time.

Endless hours, managers and other business-related people demanding financial and sales goals, powerpoint presentations, and bowls with stale cookies are usually the settings which make us, developers, wanting to jump out of the closest window.

With the introduction of Agile and Lean development methods, there is a profound need to eliminate these deadly meetings, while keeping all team members informed. And voila, we now have the stand-up meeting, aiming to be extremely compact and productive. No bullshiting, no long introductions, no stale cookies. Just the gist of the day!

So, let's see a list of rules that will help you perform well in your stand-up, and manage to get the most out of it:

1. Cut it short

Make sure you respect the stand-up rules, pal. "The discomfort of standing for long periods is intended to keep the meetings short.", so why torture your fellow co-workers?
A key point here is to plan ahead. Note down the high-level tasks you accomplished last day, and try to focus only on the main problem you face today.
This will not only help in keeping the meeting short, but it will also keep your focus on the main impedance, for which you may ask a co-worker for help after the meeting. ;)

Survival Tip: Keep notes before the meeting

2. Respect (and don't interrupt) others

I know that you want to help. I know that you are just a good comrade who has something to add to the conversation and has to do it NOW.
But for the love of God, let the speaking person finish. They are trying to squeeze a hard ay's work into 1 minute, so don't make it more difficult for them!

Also, try not to converse with others while someone is talking. It's just bad manners. The whole meeting is just a few minutes long, I bet you can wait until it's over.

Survival Tip: Keep notes during the meeting, so that you can elaborate on what others said, later on.

3. Don't look at your phone (or computer screen)

Keeping meetings sane is all about respect. And you may be disrespectful even without knowing it. Glancing at your phone to check your social, or checking your emails/perform an update on your computer may be tempting tasks to perform while someone is talking, but just imagine how you would feel when, while saying something important, everyone was staring at their screens or scrolling through Instagram...

Don't worry, an effective stand-up meeting is only several minutes long, so you will have the chance to re-connect with the online world soon enough.

Survival tip: put your phone away and turn off your screen as soon as the stand-up meeting kicks off.

4. Shape your high-level tasks

I know that you struggled with that Database connection for half a day and tried to debug that @&)&@#! outdated npm package version mismatch for the better part of this day.
Honestly, nobody wants to hear about that, not in this level.

Especially when having non-developers participating in the stand-up meeting, it is crucial to shaping your tasks in a way that will be comprehensible by all members.

Keep in mind that learning how to describe a technical task in a non-technical way is of great importance in general;
It will make you look like a human to non-developers and will boost your soft skills greatly!

Survival tip: Write down your tasks and, for each task, come up with a high-level, non-technical title.

5. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

I simply can't stress this enough. Just think about it: You participate in a meeting and you have seconds to describe a full day's work.
Don't make the mistake of beginning with the most recent tasks. I know that it's these tasks that pop into your mind more easily, but you should prioritize first what *would make sense for the other members, as well.

If you have a task involving another member, or if you have an update on a task that concerns someone else, please be a lamb and start with that one!
You will catch everyone's attention more easily, and they will able to chip in with their feedback as well (after the meeting has ended).

Survival tip: Start with tasks concerning other team members, before losing their attention.

6. Ask for help

You heard me. Stand-ups are not just about describing a list of tasks you did. On the contrary, they are also about ensuring that you will make it through the day so that you will be able to describe new tasks tomorrow (hehe).

If you face a problem regarding something and you are passed the point of googling it with no success, you should ask for help. Asking for help is not about being ignorant or lazy. It's about being professional. Your goal is to do your tasks and if some other co-worker can help you with that, then they can help you with your goal.

So, don't be selfish and ask for help before losing more time trying on your own. This does not mean of course that you should ask for help every time you face a problem. You should be (or become) mature enough to admit when you can't go on on your own but would like some help.

Survival tip: Make sure you ask for help on time, by forming the right questions.

7. Proactively offer help

Continuing from the previous item, it's easy to imagine that many people have a hard time when asking for help. Your job is to solve problems, so why making it difficult for them? If you pay attention to what others say during the stand-up, you will find plenty of chances to offer your help.

Being a technical problem you have faced before or a non-technical task you have already encountered, there are many things which you can help alleviate. Your co-workers will look up to you as a role model, and they will become even better at asking and offering help.

Survival tip: Listen carefully to what others say. You will find many chances to offer your help.

Conclusion

Stand-up meetings should not be another dull chore in the office.
When done correctly, they can prove a beneficial asset to any team and
can even strengthen the bonds between the team members.

With the right steps, we can make sure to make the most out of them,
by being focused on efficiency and respecting your co-workers.

Posted on by:

pavlosisaris profile

Paul Isaris

@pavlosisaris

Software Engineer @SciFY. Live to learn something new -and write cleaner and more sustainable code- every day. Passionate with learning and discovering new technologies, history, and psychology.

Discussion

markdown guide
 
 

Have you ever tried async standups? I'm wondering if there are any good resources / best practices for async vs sync standups. Thanks!

 

Hm, no, haven't really tried async standups. I guess they lack the on-the-spot communication among team members...

 

Yeah, that's what I'm wondering. It would be something interesting to try I think though (especially if you're in different time zones, etc).

Thanks for the post!