One of the most integral moments in the modern workplace has one of the most unlikely origins: a rugby game.
In the 1980s, researchers Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka studied what made high-performing teams at companies like 3M, Honda, Xerox, and Hewlett-Packard successful.
They discovered that world-class teams worked closely together, with each team member playing a specific role while constantly iterating and collaborating to accomplish a shared goal—sort of like rugby players trying to get possession of a ball during a scrum.
In 1986, they presented their findings in a landmark Harvard Business Review article titled “The New New Product Development Game.”
But it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the idea of the “scrum” would reach a wider audience thanks in large part to Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland—two software developers who, inspired by Takeuchi and Nonaka’s research, developed the scrum methodology as it’s recognized today. (An updated scrum guide was published in 2020.)
Since then, the scrum framework has been widely adopted by teams in various roles and industries, including software development, marketing, operations, and even parts of the public sector.
But its biggest gift to the world is arguably the daily scrum.
What is a daily scrum?
A daily scrum meeting (also known as a daily standup) is a 15-minute-long meeting, typically held at the start of each workday, in which team members share progress updates and discuss what they plan to work on each day.
The daily scrum is actually only one type of scrum meeting. There’s also sprint planning (in which a product owner and development team traditionally agree on what work will be accomplished during a specific time frame), sprint review (held after the tasks in the sprint are accomplished and ready for review), sprint retrospective (in which the team reflects on the past sprint, discuss what went well, what didn't, and what to improve on in the future), and backlog refinement (sometimes held mid-sprint to review items on the product backlog and ensure they’re being prioritized and described correctly).
If you’re not in software development or project management, there’s a chance most of the words above don’t mean anything to you.
But you’ve probably heard of a daily scrum before or unwittingly taken part in one (despite working in marketing and coming from a media background, every team I’ve worked on for the past decade has held a variation of a daily scrum meeting every morning at work).
That’s because, although the scrum methodology is rooted in software development, the framework is versatile enough that it’s easily transferrable to practically any team or organization.
What are the benefits of daily scrum meetings?
In addition to holding team members accountable, daily scrum meetings improve team communication, decision-making, collaboration, transparency, problem-solving, planning, and focus by keeping everyone informed and involved.
Here are some tips on how to run a daily scrum meeting at your workplace.
How to run a daily scrum meeting: a step-by-step guide
Step 1: Choose a Consistent Daily Meeting Time
How frequent are daily scrums? As the name suggests, a daily scrum should happen every day—usually at the same time and place to avoid confusion.
The best time to run a daily scrum is generally in the morning (at Bloks, we do ours at 9:15 a.m. every day), but if you’re working with people in other time zones, the late morning or early afternoon should suffice.
The goal here is to level set for the day, so don’t leave your morning scrum too late.
Step 2: Come Prepared with Updates
Each team member should come to the daily scrum prepared to discuss their plans for the day and any progress they’ve made since the last meeting.
If you’re forgetful, write your daily scrum update down the day before as part of your shutdown ritual at the end of each work day.
Step 3: Begin On Time and Use a Timer
Start the daily scrum meeting at the scheduled time, even if everyone isn’t there—team members can provide updates as they arrive and get updated on what everyone else said after the meeting (more on that later).
Again, daily scrums should be at most 15 minutes. If you frequently go over time, consider setting a timer, so team members stay focused and only talk about what’s important.
Step 4: Provide Your Three Key Updates
Your daily scrum meeting checklist should only include three questions:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What am I doing today?
- What’s in my way?
Each team member should answer the three questions before the daily scrum meeting moves on to the next person.
Step 5: Note Any Roadblocks
As each team member answers the three questions, it’s important for someone to note any impediments that are in each person’s way. (Discussing these issues after the scrum is best to ensure the daily scrum stays on track.)
Step 6: Conclude and Follow-Up on Issues
Once everyone has had a chance to speak, you can end the daily scrum. If any issues arise, the team lead should discuss them after the morning scrum meeting or schedule a different time to talk (p.s. we have just the tool for you).
In addition to the daily scrum steps outlined above, here are a few more tips to help you run an effective daily scrum meeting.
Daily scrum meeting best practices
1. Maintain Strict Start and End Times
It may be difficult initially, but consistently starting and ending on time will help team members be more punctual and keep the daily scrum meeting running more efficiently.
2. Stand to Keep Meetings Short
If your daily scrums are in-person and teammates are physically capable of standing up during meetings, doing so can help keep the scrum brief.
3. Vary the Order of Speakers
Have a different team member start each daily scrum and pass it on to a different person each day. If you stick to the same speaking order, team members could become complacent and start zoning out until it’s their time to speak.
4. Use a Talking Token
This tip comes directly from scrum.org. Use a token (a ball, toy, baton—anything, really) that team members pass around to indicate who’s allowed to speak next. A talking token can help reduce interruptions and keep team members focused on who’s speaking.
5. Keep the Camera On During Calls
If you host your daily scrum on a video conferencing platform or some team members work remotely, encourage participants to keep their video on—that way, everyone can see each other, and team members feel more present, even if they’re thousands of miles away.
6. Use Chat for Side Comments
If your daily scrum is on a video call, encourage participants to use the chat function to chime in occasionally. This lets people speak up and share their thoughts without physically interrupting someone mid-speech.
7. Summarize Key Meeting Points
After the meeting, it can be helpful to send a brief summary of what was discussed, any decisions made, and any action items that came up.
Use a tool like Bloks to automatically transcribe and summarize meetings and identify action items, so you can focus on the conversation while still noting what gets said.