One important part of working in a successful team is good communication. Knowing what the rest of the team are working on, understanding what is coming next and being able to identify where you can help the rest of the team to remove blocking problems so we are all more productive. A great way to foster this culture is by conducting daily stand-up meetings where each member of the team take turns to answer three questions:
What did I do yesterday?
Focus on how you did compared to the plans you made. What challenges you overcame or that slowed you down.
What do I plan to do today?
Considering where you are through your work, what goal are you setting for yourself to accomplish today? Be realistic about the time you have and what is possible.
Do I have any blockers or issues I need help with or that could prevent us from achieving our team goal?
There are two parts to this: on a personal level, do I need any help completing my work; and from what you learned by completing your work on the previous day, have you identified anything that puts at risk the completion of the team’s goals? If so, share what you found out with the team so collectively the team can plan how they can mitigate that risk
Alternative to the 3 questions
The above is the usual way teams run stand-ups,, but there is another way that can be equally effective. If your team are working in Scrum or Kanban (or any of the multitude of other agile ways) and have a board that tracks the work, then you could chose to walk the board. Instead of giving individuals in the team a slot to talk, read out the sprint goal and then take each active task and ask for an update on the ticket. This can be useful when you have a team that are struggling to focus on the sprint goal and is useful to do occasionally just to refocus the teams minds on the goal. Just be mindful that stand-ups are not meant as a reporting meeting and focus on how do we collectively move towards our goal.
Running a successful stand-up meeting
Timebox (15 mins)
Stand-up meetings are supposed to be quick. It’s not a reporting mechanism to tell a boss how you got on, it is a meeting by the team, for the team to keep everyone up to date, so keeping the time small helps to ensure the meeting is snappy. Don’t let anyone monopolise the time. Any discussions on issues identified in the stand-up should be taken off-line, after the stand-up is complete.
Make sure everyone’s voice is heard
Make sure everyone has an equal amount of opportunity to speak. Don’t let one person monopolise all the time. If you have someone who does like to go on, have them go last and keep to the timebox of 15 minutes to encourage them to get what they have to say out promptly. If someone is starting to go into too much detail, interrupt and ask them to take that off-line. Focus on the 3 questions.
If you are still struggling to ensure everyone is heard, think about using a beanbag or similar item and set a rule that only the person with the object can speak. Then get the team to pass it around each member until everyone has had a turn.
Firstly, these meetings are called stand-up meetings because everyone who attends stays stood up for the meeting. This is to encourage everyone to be brief and keep to the point. This can feel a little awkward initially but the team will soon get used to it. Just because you are running a remote meeting shouldn’t change this.
All team exercises should be fun. Give time before the stand-up for people to catch-up for a few minutes. This encourages participation. Another idea is to run a warm-up exercise. There are lots of different warm-up exercises you can do which I’m not going to go into here (maybe a future blog post). One I like to run for remote stand-ups is to play a quick game of hangman, going around the room asking each person in turn for a letter. I even created an online game for it which you can play here – https://arcadezombie.uk/hangman