How to run remote daily stand-up meetings with a touch of social.

Photo of Anthony de Wouters Written by Anthony de Wouters,   May 13, 2020

In our previous blogs, we described the transition to running projects remotely, explained the adjustments we made to keep effective communication with our distributed team and dived deep into practicalities of remote Agile Sprint Planning. We initially thought of dedicating this blog to remote agile stand-ups but in the end, decided to change the focus slightly. At times when 35-40% of adults in the UK have reported concerns about their mental health, and every second person worries about his/her wellbeing, it's crucial to support our employees. So, what exactly can be done? When it comes to staff emotional health, we believe there is no 'fits all' solution; it is a combination of small adjustments that can be weaved into every meeting or team interaction.

Let's take the example of daily stand-up meetings, 15-minute catch up for the development team to plan work for the day and discuss any potential blockers. It's the primary way for team members to communicate, and for some, it's the only work-related interaction of the day.

How do we incorporate social conversations that naturally happen in the office into the well-structured work-focused meeting without disrupting its flow.


Sharing ideas (1)Daily standups keep the team up to date with everyone's progress

Soon after we transitioned to 100% remote work, it became clear that the traditional agenda of the daily stand-up meetings lacked the 'social touch'. After weeks in isolation, everyone desperately missed the morning's 'how was your evening or weekend?' chat, lunch and coffee break catch-ups. So, we faced a dilemma - how do we incorporate social conversations that naturally happen in the office into the well-structured work-focused meeting without disrupting its flow.

The solution was to adjust the daily stand-up meetings' meeting agenda giving it a slight social twist. Each team concludes their daily stand-up meeting with a 'check-in' - an additional item in the agenda. We recommend running the traditional aspects of the stand-up in the usual fashion to preserve its leanness, but in the end, add a time-bound' social' slot. The extra 10-15 minutes are allocated for informal conversations to fill in the social gap caused by isolation, to feel connected as a part of a team. The ScrumMaster acts as a facilitator, giving one person at a time a chance to talk about their news. It could be absolutely anything; from interesting things they learned to funny family updates or jokes discovered on social. And then the conversation flows naturally!

2020-05-13 10_45_13-Infomentum Team during one of the Daily Standup meetings

Below is a summary of this new enhanced agenda which you can apply with your teams:

  1. The Status Update: Each team member covers the traditional aspects of the daily stand-up meeting (What they have worked on since the last stand-up, what they intend to work on until the next and whether they are blocked).
  2. The Parking Lot: Any items identified during the stand-up meeting that need continued discussion but that did not match the themes of the status update above.
  3. The Check-in (New): A general update from each person on how they are doing. Allow everyone to share personal news, useful tips or jokes.

Our advice is - listen to your people, understand what might be the cause of their stress or anxiety and be flexible. Even small changes to a well-established work routine could make a massive impact on people's wellbeing, keep them happy, motivated and productive.

In the next blog in the series, we are looking at another aspect of agile project delivery – retrospectives.

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