A team’s daily stand-up meetings, or “Daily Scrums,” are crucial to a team’s success. These meetings are intended to encourage the exchange of ideas among team members, discuss schedules, address obstacles, and ensure all team members are on the same page. Too often, however, these “Daily Scrums” lose their value as they devolve into misguided daily rituals. Here are 10 tips to help you improve the way you run your daily meetings:

    1. Be consistent about starting and finishing on time. If you find that you are exceeding 15 minutes, evaluate the primary causes and devise a plan that enables you to consistently finish in 15 minutes.

    Starting and/or finishing daily scrums late is a prominent cause of frustration among teams. By starting late you give members the impression that the rest of the meeting will be equally disorganized, leaving team members disinterested from the get-go. Finishing late only serves to leave a bitter taste in team members’ mouths for the next meeting. Since these meetings are held daily there is rarely a need to extend the duration of them – whatever needs to be said can likely wait for tomorrow.

    2. Stand in a circle or semi-circle to help ensure team members are talking directly to each other. This helps reinforce the message that the daily stand-up is for the team.

    Making eye contact with and being able to see whomever is speaking allows for better understanding of what is being said. This will also help build a sense of camaraderie among members and allow for a more fluid exchange of ideas.

    3. Stand close enough together so that all team members (including anyone who is working remotely) can easily hear what is being said.

    Straining to hear takes away from one’s ability to understand what is being said. If remote participants are struggling to hear they may also be inclined to focus their attention on something locally instead.

    4. Limit attendee’s speaking opportunities to a specific time limit, typically one minute or less.

    Putting team members up against a time limit forces them to be concise in their thoughts. It will also ensure that each member gets to speak once while leaving time at the end for rebuttal.

    5. Consider using a ball or a similar token that can easily be handed or thrown from one team member to another. The person holding the token is the only person who speaks. For remote attendees, local attendees can simply say they are “handing the token” to a remote attendee.

    This ensures that everyone’s attention is in the same place at the same time and allows for the speaking member to maintain a consistent stream of thought by reducing the chance that another team member will interrupt.

    6. All team members should have an opportunity to speak BEFORE any other attendees who are present ask questions or make comments.

    This serves multiple purposes for team members. First, it places the emphasis where it belongs -- on the team. Second, it encourages other attendees to hold their comments or questions until after the team has finished handling team business.

    7. Agree as a team on a visual cue that any team member can employ to indicate when a conversation is turning into a deep dive on a topic best discussed after the stand-up, or simply agree on a phrase such as “deep dive.”

    This will help prevent meetings from running too long, as addressed in tip #1. It will also encourage team members interested in the topic of the “deep dive” to continue that conversation at a later time.

    8. Have different team members facilitate the daily stand-up, rather than the same person leading each time.

    This again ensures that all members feel they are on the same level as their peers. It also serves as a change of pace for members so that each meeting is refreshing, as opposed to being ritualistic.

    9. Focus on the work that is to be done and anything standing in the way of getting that work done, not on a review of each team member’s calendar (for instance, talking about meetings attended is likely not useful information, unless a meeting resulted in a specific outcome that the team needs to know about).

    This helps ensure that meetings will be time well-spent. It is the job of the meeting facilitator to identify when focus has strayed from discussion of the work at hand or any obstacles standing in the way of getting that work done. It may be useful to have a visual or verbal cue to indicate when a member should refocus, much like in tip #7.

    10. If a blocker is identified, be sure to assign an action to a specific person for follow up (often the Scrum Master or team facilitator).

    This creates a systematic approach to make sure each identified blocking issue has a clear owner. This can be done first by asking for volunteers, then if necessary, by assignment.

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