How to Maximize Productivity in Your Team’s Scrums

Published on June 19th, 2019.

Daily stand-up meetings, or Scrum meetings, are great tools to help teams boost productivity and communication. These short meetings are held at the same time and place each day so team members can discuss goals and blockers they encounter and maintain a smooth workflow.

Unfortunately, these Scrum meetings sometimes get a reputation for wasting time. Yet for others, Scrums are essential to the productivity of their companies. One explanation for this can be found in the ways these two groups run Scrums, as it can be easy to fall into bad habits with Scrums that can make them seem unhelpful.

Here are some of our top tips to get rid of bad habits to boost productivity and keep your Scrums running as efficiently as possible.

Stand, Don’t Sit

One of the easiest ways to maximize your stand-ups is to literally stand up. Staying on your feet keeps you alert and focused, whereas sitting down is more relaxing and can leave people complacent.

Many teams report having more productive stand-ups when they’re standing up. You can achieve the same effect by asking your team to stand up during meetings, or removing chairs from the room completely.

Keep a Question Template

Knowing what you need to talk about helps cut out unnecessary waffling in meetings. One way of doing this is by having a series of set questions—generally about three—that you ask every meeting to get everyone up to speed quickly. This can just be simple questions like what did you do yesterday, what do you plan on doing today, and did you have any blockers yesterday.

This kind of question template gives team members a format to follow so they can stay on task and make sure they say what they need to discuss in order to be as productive as possible.

Play Music

Humans have unique responses to music; we can tie certain songs to memories, and listening to different songs can trigger different emotions in us. You can use this to your advantage in the workplace by starting your daily Scrums with a specific song.

Using the same song or theme to cue each of your stand-ups can trigger a Pavlovian response that helps bring your team into “Scrum” mode. Depending on the music you choose, it can also help start the meeting on a light note. We recommend choosing something upbeat or inspirational to best get this effect.

Make Your Stand-up Schedule Work for Everyone

If your meeting schedule doesn’t work for your whole team, you’re going to run into problems. Employees will be less willing to participate in stand-ups, and morale will be lower. If team members have to interrupt their workflow to attend these meetings, this will be even worse as they will be frustrated at having to stop mid-task and thus be unprepared.

Make sure that your Scrum takes place at a time that works for everyone. While this magic time might not be apparent from the beginning, do a little testing to try and find it. Try Scrums first thing in the morning. Try holding them after lunch. Try holding them in the afternoon. Once you find the right time, it will be worth it.

More importantly, once you find the right time, stick to it. Consistency is key with stand-ups as it helps build a routine.

Maintain a Strict Time Limit

One of the biggest problems people report about Scrum meetings is how much time they can take. Fifteen minute Scrums can turn into half an hour or forty-five minute Scrums, wasting precious workday time that could better be used getting tasks done.

A major cause of this is waffling. When people are unprepared and haven’t been given a time limit to aim for, they have a tendency to ramble and get distracted instead of talking about the things they need to say. But if they know they only have a few minutes to speak, they are more likely to get the important things out of the way first and better prepare for their time slot. And the more they settle into this routine, the easier it is to plan out what they have to say.

You may need to be harsh about cutting people off if they go over that limit, but it can free up a huge amount of time in your stand-ups.

Keep Stand-up Teams Small

Stand-ups with too many people can get messy and complicated. The more people are involved, the less time each has to talk about their blockers and issues, often leaving these things unsolved and affecting future goals. This means that tasks can fall through the cracks, affecting the team’s overall sense of accountability.

Some people suggest keeping stand-ups to about ten people, but that number will be different for each company. This might mean holding one Scrum for your entire team, or splitting your team up into multiple Scrum teams and then holding one master Scrum to share information. Find out what works for you and stick to it.

Use an Automated Stand-up Bot

One of the best ways to make in-person stand-ups easier is to use an automated Scrum bot to take care of the prep work for you. There are many tools you can download on chat platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams that will automatically collect stand-up answers from your team and make in-person Scrums flow even better.

One such tool is ScrumGenius, which integrates with Slack, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams to send each member of your team automated Scrum prompts each day and then delivers their answers directly to your inbox via a summary report. This means that your stand-ups can instead focus on planning for the future and solving problems standing in the way of workflow, meaning you and your team can get more work done and do so much more efficiently.

What tips do you use to maximize your Scrum meetings?