Any daily standup meeting (or daily scrum) agenda should consist of team members quickly answering the same three questions every day: What did you do yesterday? What will you be doing today? Is there anything blocking your progress?

The purpose of the question “What did you do yesterday?” is to get a quick overview of how the project is progressing. This is valuable for all team members, but particularly for the team leader, whose role it is to monitor progress, assess whether it’s going according to schedule or not, and to make changes to plans and timelines if necessary. Managers can also compare today’s answers to “What did you do yesterday?” to yesterday’s answers to “What will you be doing today?” As a general rule, the closer these sets of answers match, the better the project is going.

Starting the day by asking every team member “What are you going to be doing today?” is a good way to ensure everyone on the team is thinking ahead at least a little and knows what is expected of them. It’s also useful for team members to hear each other’s answers, particularly in cases where one team member might be waiting on the completion of another team member’s task in order to be able to commence one of their own tasks. If there are any mis-matches to expectations or priorities within the team, then this question will help identify and resolve them.

While the first two questions can highlight problems as a kind of by-product, the third and final question, “Is there anything blocking your progress?”, gives team members an explicit opportunity to highlight blockers, and other team members a chance to think about what they could do to help. The standup meeting is not the time to be discussing problems and blockers in depth - there’s no need to drag the whole team into that. The point is to identify and outline problems so that the whole team is aware of them.

All that should take 15 minutes at most. If it’s frequently taking longer, then maybe your team is too big, or maybe some of the wrong kinds of questions (or wrong kinds of answers) are sneaking in. Here’s a couple of examples of the wrong kinds of questions:

“What’s the status of that?”

A daily standup meeting is not for status reports. If team members are saying things like, “It’s going quite well” or “I’m about halfway through it”, and particularly if they’re addressing the team leader and not the rest of the team, then they’re misunderstanding the questions and the point of the meeting. And it’s up to the team ladder to fix that.

“Any other business?”

No. Absolutely not. This question is the exact opposite of the point of a daily standup. The purpose is to get an overview of the project and adjust plans if necessary. Nothing more, nothing less. Do not, ever, provide opportunity for any team member to raise any issue that might be on their mind in a daily standup. Do provide that opportunity, but provide it elsewhere.

One of the myths about daily standups is that they have to be conducted synchronously, with everyone standing together in a circle. Not true. In fact, daily standups conducted asynchronously, whereby each team member uses a communication tool to answer the three questions by (as opposed to at) a certain time each day, have less of a tendency to derail. They also provide a record of all answers, and don’t force team members to interrupt the work they’re actually trying to get done. Woice is a tool designed with exactly this process in mind. And you can even use it sitting down!