Making the Daily Standup Worth It

The Daily Standup can, if made right, be the heartbeat of great team work. This daily meeting is a cornerstone of teams working in Agile and Scrum, but because it fosters transparency and a great teamwork, it is growing in popularity across many types of teams and projects.

But sometimes there are subtle details that make the standup less effective. Some teams even think the standup is a waste of time and abandon the practice altogether. What are the crucial ingredients that make a daily standup energizing, informative and worthwhile? And how do you manage the stand-up if your team is distributed?

The Daily Standup Meeting (or Daily Scrum Meeting) has a specific purpose and format. It is important to note that it is not a status meeting, and not a forum for reporting to the Scrum Master or other leaders. It may be facilitated by the Scrum Master (at least in the first sprints) but the meeting is really by and for the team. Its purpose is for team members to coordinate their work, encourage accountability and shared understanding of the goals, and share any issues that may impact or derail the iteration. The meeting should take no longer than 15 minutes, and the format is light-weight but strict in order to ensure discussions are kept short and problems are identified but not solved. Some general rules in order to keep the standups effective:

1. Actually stand up!

Meetings tend to be shorter, and participants stay more alert when standing up.

 

2. Visualize!

Either around a physical task board in your team space or in a tool such as Jira Software.

 

3. Same time, same place!

Meet around the team board at the same time every day, preferably in the morning (though in some cases afternoons may work better, see the referenced articles). Don’t wait for late-comers. Predictability reduces the overhead time for finding the meeting and getting started, and makes it easier for participants to plan their work around the meeting and attend it every day.

 

4. Respect!

Team members should respect each other’s time and engage fully in this short meeting. Come prepared, be transparent (but don’t talk too long), and listen to your peers to catch any connections to your own tasks. No multitasking, phones or computers (unless the team huddles around a digital board rather than a physical one). Again, standing up makes it less tempting to check your mail during the meeting.

 

5. No problem solving!

Problems are noted on a “Parking Lot” and discussed in a separate conversation or meeting, preferably just after the standup. Only those affected stay on, and stakeholders or subject matter experts outside the team can be brought in for this meet-after.

 

6. Team focus!

Again, the standup is not for reporting status to leaders, but to synchronize across the team. The “reporting anti-pattern” can be especially hard to break in a hierarchical organization. The facilitator should encourage team members to address each other rather than him or her when sharing information in the standup. There are several tools and tricks to try, for example:

  • A strict format with 3 questions: What did I accomplish yesterday, what will I do today, and is anything blocking me?
  • Facilitator breaking eye contact with the one speaking, forcing the speaker to address the rest of the team instead.
  • Rotating the facilitator role.

 

7.Keep it small!

Visitors may attend but not participate in the standup. This is tricky business. The Daily Standup could remove the need for some other status meetings or reports, but there is a risk that the Daily Standup turns into a status reporting meeting or that visitors start disrupting the team agenda. The facilitator needs to prevent this by reminding visitors of the protocol beforehand, and if there is a tendency that the meeting is derailing, he or she needs to interrupt and get it back on track, even if the visitor comes from upper management.

With so much focus on team collaboration and collective commitment, running standups in a distributed team naturally has its challenges. Our partners at Atlassian share their ideas about how to tackle the “distributed team”-challenge on the following page:

https://www.atlassian.com/blog/agile/standup-atlassian

For some more hands-on practical tips on how to make your Daily Standups effective and how to address common anti-patterns, this is a great guide from Jason Yip with examples from Spotify:

https://martinfowler.com/articles/itsNotJustStandingUp.html

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