Daily Huddle Questions (What They Are and How They Help Your Sprints)

Teams are often unsure about the purpose or function of the daily huddle questions and how they help their development team with their sprints. That means they may be undervaluing — and incorrectly running — what ought to be a very valuable team meeting.

We know this from experience. Our engineering team has been running daily standups since 2009, and we also built Geekbot — an asynchronous daily huddle software used by over 100,000 users to run faster and less disruptive standups. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about the daily huddle (including what makes it effective and what doesn’t).

In this post, we’ll answer commonly asked questions that we’ve received (and at one point had ourselves) about the daily huddle, including:

  • What are the 3 daily huddle questions and what purpose do they serve?
  • What pitfalls should you avoid when answering the daily huddle questions?
  • What are the benefits of holding daily huddles asynchronously? (As opposed to in person or via video call).

Are you ready to improve your daily huddle? Geekbot lets teams run asynchronous daily huddles and integrates with Slack (and soon MS Teams). It’s free for teams of 10 or fewer users. For larger teams it’s $2.50 per user per month. Click here to learn more and sign up.

The 3 Daily Huddle Questions (and the Purpose They Serve)

The three daily huddle questions are:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?  
  3. What (if anything) is blocking your progress?

Combined, the three daily huddles questions help your team identify:

  • How they performed in the last 24 hours.
  • What their next 24 hours will look like.


But let’s look at each question individually and discuss the less obvious benefits that many people miss.

What You Can Learn from the First Question (What Did You Do Yesterday?)

By asking your team what they did yesterday, you can:

  • Reveal organizational dysfunction and bad planning. For example, if people on your team keep saying, “I couldn’t do much yesterday because I was tied up in meetings”, then that signals something is wrong. Your developers are spending most of their day in a meeting, instead of working on more productive efforts. Or if they reveal that they spent all day working on an issue (when it could’ve been solved quicker if they had asked for help), then perhaps there isn’t a culture in place which encourages developers to ask for assistance.
  • Identify positive and negative work traits. What did an engineer do yesterday? Did they rush through tasks and submit work that was okay, but not great? Did they take their time and come up with a new, innovative solution? Were they spending all their time helping others, and their own work suffered? Did they start a lot of tasks but finish none of them? By seeing how your team spends their day, you can identify qualities worth encouraging and uncover professional development opportunities that need to be addressed.

What You Can Learn from the Second Question (What Will You Do Today?)

By asking your team what they will work on today, you can:

  • Discover project management and work-load planning issues. Sometimes multiple developers may be planning to tackle the same task (when it only requires one person). Or perhaps no one is tackling a very important task because everyone thought that another developer was handling it. By asking this second question, your team can uncover these types of issues and more effectively change gears without the risk of cross overlap or missing a critical assignment.
  • Team members can offer assistance. Sometimes a developer is up against a big task that they don’t realize there’s a quick fix for. But someone else on your team may have dealt with a similar issue last week and learned the hard way how to solve it quickly. By outlining the plan for the day, someone else on the team can recognize they have a better way of tackling that problem and offer to assist.

What You Can Learn from the Third Question (Anything Blocking Your Progress?)

By listing what’s blocking their progress today, teammates can receive the help they need and more quickly finish their tasks. But while this is easily understood, there are less obvious benefits to the 3rd question:

First, it’s good to have a record of blockers. Over time, if you notice someone is always waiting on a specific developer or a specific issue, then that’s a clear sign that there may be larger work-related issues that need addressing.

Second, you can identify when a blocker can’t be readily solved, and adapt the schedule. Sometimes there are multiple blockers, where John is waiting on Linda who is waiting on Terry, who needs final approval from an external party. Instead of having three developers simply sitting on their hands, waiting for a blocker to be solved, you can re-prioritize their backlog based on the blocker. This way, they’re not being unproductive while waiting for a solution to their blocker.

Why We Added a Fourth Question to Our Daily Huddle

There are only three daily huddle questions per the Scrum Guide, but when we started running asynchronous daily standups, we saw a need for adding one more: How are you feeling today?

Geekbot's daily huddle includes four questions.

By asking your team how they’re feeling, you’re taking a moment to recognize them as an individual and valued member of the team. This helps build a more personal connection, which is especially important in a remote work environment.  

This question is included by default when you use Geekbot to run your asynchronous standups. And because our huddles are text-based and run through Slack, it has an added benefit — it helps you monitor company culture and team happiness.

Example of team happiness graph over time.

Geekbot will analyze your team’s answers to the “How do you feel” question, and assign a “Happy”, “Unhappy”, or “Neutral” sentiment. This helps you keep an eye on how your company culture is fairing, and allows you to get ahead of any potential issues.

For example, if the overall sentiment is heavily “Unhappy”, then you know something has likely gone wrong and needs addressing.  

3 Pitfalls to Avoid when Answering the Daily Huddle Questions

Next, we look at some things you should be aware of so you can avoid them in your daily huddles. Usually, when a Scrum team thinks standups are a waste of time (which is notoriously common), it’s because they’re making one of the following pitfalls:

1. Solving Blockers in Real Time

One of the biggest mistakes we see development teams fall into is solving blockers during the huddle. This comes from a good, well-intentioned place. A team member shared a blocker or problem, and so the other team members want to solve it quickly.

The issue is that solving blockers in real time makes the meeting longer than it needs to be. And now the rest of your team is wasting time sitting idly by, as two other developers work together on an issue that may not be relevant to anyone else.

The facilitator of the daily huddle should ensure that when blockers are identified, they get resolved after the huddle is over (rather than during it).

This is a non issue when you run asynchronous daily huddles with Geekbot.

Geekbot sends out the daily huddle questions in Slack to everyone who is participating in the standup:

Geekbot starts an individual chat with daily huddle questions.

Their answers are then shared in either a public or private Slack channel of your choosing:

Geekbot starts an individual chat with daily huddle questions.

Teammates can quickly skim the updates that are relevant to their own workday, and no longer have to sit by and listen to updates that don’t apply to them.

But when someone has an issue or blocker, they can still get the help they need:

Within Slack, coworkers can have threaded conversations as to not interrupt anyone else who doesn't need to participate in the conversation.

In the daily huddle pictured above, Kate tagged Brandon regarding the status of the new landing pages. Brandon can now respond to Kate in a thread. This helps Kate get the information she needs, without derailing an entire huddle.

2. Monopolizing the Huddle

 A daily huddle should be — at max — 15 minutes long. That’s 15 minutes for everyone on your development team to give their update.

But at any of the daily huddle questions, you run into the risk of someone “monopolizing the huddle” (i.e. talking at length when a quick update would suffice). For example, they may spend too much time discussing the tasks they finished yesterday to impress a manager, or dive into superfluous details of what they plan to do today.

It’s up to the facilitator — and the rest of the team — to keep the daily huddle on track.

If you’re doing in-person, synchronous meetings, this could mean setting a timer or encouraging your team to call out “parking lot!” when a developer is providing more information than necessary (to signify this should be saved for after the huddle).

3. Rushed Answers

You don’t want your developers to give long soliloquies but you also don’t want them to rush through their huddle.

Yet when you run in-person, synchronous huddles, you run the risk of catching your developer at a bad time. They may need to get back to a call, a different meeting, or want to quickly finish a task they were working on.

Because of that, they may rush through their answers, without giving them as much thought.

By switching to Geekbot, you can avoid this issue. When you run asynchronous daily huddles, your team can answer the questions when it’s convenient for them. So if they’re in the middle of a task or on a call, they can hit snooze on Geekbot and come back to the answers later in the day when it’s more convenient and they’re less rushed.

Note: Are you ready to improve your daily huddles? Geekbot lets teams run faster and less disruptive daily huddles and integrates with Slack (and soon MS Teams). It’s free for teams of 10 or fewer users. For larger teams it’s $2.50 per user per month. Click here to learn more and sign up.

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Frequently asked questions

How Do You Perform a Daily Huddle?

There are two main ways to perform a daily morning huddle. Synchronous (that’s face-to-face) daily huddles and asynchronous ones.
     
When you’re doing a synchronous daily huddle, that means you’re getting everyone in the same room or on the same Zoom call (if you’re a remote team).
     
That’s why companies switch to running asynchronous standups. It’s easier for the entire team to fill out their answers to the daily huddle when it’s convenient for them. It’s also less disruptive and faster.
Synchronous daily huddles have their drawbacks. They’re sometimes too long, hard to schedule, hard to keep on track, and are disruptive to your team’s work day.

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