We’ve all had these questions as individuals working on a team. What are we working on? When will this be done? What issues are blocking us from achieving our goals?

When working with limited resources and time, as many nonprofits and social enterprises are, being able to answer these questions quickly is critical for success. Should you have status meetings that no one has time to go to or want to attend? Or use email updates that are not consistently sent or read?     

One potential solution is to stand up together.

The daily stand-up meeting is one of several important “ceremonies” in Scrum that help facilitate collaboration and continuous improvement. In my recent article on How Agile Can Drive Impact For Nonprofits, we introduced Scrum, which is one of the most popular frameworks used to implement Agile. Let’s take a closer look at the daily stand-up.

The Daily Stand-up Dissected

True to its name, teams will meet daily and stand up for this meeting. By standing, this encourages people to stay engaged, while keeping the meeting brief (less than 15 minutes). Typically, stand-ups are held at the same place and time agreed upon by the team. Ideally, they occur in the morning, as it helps set the stage for the coming day.

The stand-up is facilitated by a Scrum Master, whose role is essential in helping the team perform at the highest level. Besides ensuring stand-ups run smoothly, a Scrum Master removes impediments, shields the team from distractions, and drives constant improvement.

So what happens in a stand-up? Three questions that every attendee answers:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any impediments (blockers) in your way?

Impact in a Few Minutes

You may wonder how can a brief meeting make such a difference. Recurrence and active participation are the keys. Effective daily stand-ups allow teams to:

  • Gain shared understanding of progress and goals
  • Coordinate efforts in real time
  • Share to quickly solve problems and improve
  • Identify better as a cohesive team

It is important to note that the daily stand-up is not a status meeting to provide updates to your boss. This is a meeting for team members to make commitments to each other. For example, one team member can say “Today, I will finish writing a grant to send out.” Consider how a statement like this can affect accountability and expectations. At tomorrow’s stand-up, everyone will expect this person to say whether they finished this task or not. In turn, that person would want to do their best to complete this commitment for the team.

Real World Application

So what does a stand-up look like in a nonprofit setting? In only one workshop, I was able to introduce Agile and the daily stand-up to the Project: VISION team. While facilitating their first stand-up as Scrum Master, I could already start to see how people’s mindset were adapting to the new concept.  

As I checked in on the PV team in the following weeks, it was encouraging to see how the regular sync ups were leading to increased transparency, accountability, and productivity. In addition, the stand-ups were important strategically as they helped ensure PV was working on the most critical work, while also addressing any blockers in a timely manner.

Since that initial workshop, the PV team has now facilitated their own daily stand-ups for the past four months, rotating the role of Scrum Master among the team members. The results have been tangible, positive outcomes on their projects.

Getting Started

Implementing daily stand-ups would be a simple, but powerful way to start getting your organization unified on its important work. We can help you start down the right path toward stand-ups that will be engaging, productive, and most importantly valuable.

In upcoming articles, we will discuss how to avoid the many pitfalls that can make stand-ups ineffective as well as dive into the other Scrum ceremonies. To learn more about how these concepts can help your organization, check out our Agile workshop. Or please reach out to me at andrew@impaktfel.com to get started.