Daily standups are a common formality of many teams, especially within the agile software world. However, there’s an art to running an effective standup, which is a key ingredient to every agile software team. Let’s start by defining the daily standup.
What are daily standup meetings?
Standups are quick, informative meetings meant to align the team and keep progress moving forward. During a daily standup, each participant answers the following questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Is there anything blocking you from making progress?
Sharing successes, plans, and progress helps align the team and build a shared understanding of what everyone is working on. The daily standup is not a planning meeting. Sprint planning should be done in a separate meeting.
Who’s involved in standups?
Standups, also known as daily scrums, typically involve the development team. However, it’s not uncommon for other teammates to observe the standup in order to stay in the loop. This is especially true for early-stage startups where the company is still very small.
For example, designers, writers, QA, and sometimes even customer support reps might be involved in a daily standup. It really comes down to your team’s size and structure. Design your daily standup so that it works best for your team.
When should standups happen?
Standups should happen daily at the start of the workday whenever possible. Kicking off the day with a daily standup helps align the entire team for the duration of the day.
A standup shouldn’t last any longer than 15 minutes. If it lasts longer, consider it a signal that something needs to change. For example, maybe you need to break up your teams into two separate standups. Or maybe some teammates don’t need to be involved. Perhaps your standups are turning into long problem-solving sessions.
Correct those issues so that you can stay on course with your daily standups. A standup longer than 15 min will leave your team exhausted and irritated, and that’s the opposite effect you want your daily standups to have.
How QA can participate in daily standups
Testing teams might have their own daily standups, or they might be directly involved with the development team’s standup meeting. Again, it really depends on your team’s size and structure. That said, I personally find it valuable for a representative from the testing team to be involved in standups directly with the development team.
Either way, testers can bring a lot of value to daily standups. Here are some examples:
- A tester can give an update on the bugs they found yesterday
- The testing team may be blocked from testing a specific part of the application until another part is fixed
- Testers can clarify the steps to reproduce a certain bug
- A tester can raise a critical issue they haven’t gotten any feedback on yet
- A tester can give a high-level update on testing progress/results
Including the testing team in daily standups will help align your team around critical issues and ultimately deliver a higher quality product to customers.
Standups in a remote world
The business world as we’ve known it has changed drastically. More and more teams are adopting remote work. With this shift, teams need to think about how they’re conducting standups in a world of remote work.
If timezones allow, connect with your teammates over a video call. This is a great way to recreate the traditional in-office standup environment.
If your team is spread across multiple timezones, it may be difficult to conduct a daily standup in the morning. In this case, you’ll need to look at adopting an asynchronous standup culture. That is a system where individuals can submit updates and react to others not in real-time.
For example, you can use Slack, documentation or wiki tools, or a specific application for standups such as Range.
7 tips for running standups
- Actually stand up if possible: standing up will help keep it short!
- Don’t solve problems during a standup: make them known, but focus on solving them outside of the standup.
- Listen to each teammate: practice active listening throughout the entire meeting, don’t disrupt your teammates.
- Embrace humility: be transparent and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to raise certain things.
- Have a facilitator: have the scrum master, development lead, or product owner facilitate the standup in order to keep everyone on track.
- Don’t try to outshine everyone: a daily standup isn’t a time to flex your ego, stay focused on delivering value to your team.
- Use a speaking token: identify an object to use, or a “microphone” to signify who should be talking at each moment.
Daily standups should be brief, high-energy meetings that everyone gets value out of. It’s important to keep them short and on track. Modify them as your team scales and changes so that they remain a critical and valuable part of your company’s culture.