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Author: Dwight Kingdon |12/11/18

7 Tips for Better Daily Stand-ups

How have your Daily Stand-ups been lately? Do you look forward to them? Are they interesting, brief, and helpful? Done right, the Daily Stand-up is an important time for the team to sync on where they are, and to determine what they need to do to successfully complete the sprint. Done wrong, it can become boring and a waste of everyone’s time. The Daily Stand-up is not a status meeting, the audience is not the Scrum Master, and it is not a marathon of redundant, meaningless chatter.

In Scrum, the Daily Stand-up, or Daily Scrum, has no mandatory format but is often a time-boxed, 15-minute get-together for the whole team to ensure they are all on the same page and they know what needs to happen to meet the sprint goals. There are lots of ways to accomplish this, but teams will often answer “the 3 questions” or will “walk the task board” to provide vital information to others on the team.

Here are seven tips for having more meaningful Daily Stand-ups:

  1. Talk to your team-mates. The Stand-up is not a status report for the Scrum Master, so don’t address your comments to the Scrum Master – address the team. It is about planning for the day to move the team closer to meeting the sprint goals. Tell the team what you will do for the benefit of the team. The Scrum Master is a member of the team, but is not the primary or sole recipient of your updates.
  2. Be there and be “present”. First – show up to the Stand-up. Stand-ups are not optional. If you miss a Stand-up, you miss hearing or providing potentially important information that will benefit you and the team. Second – be “present” and listen intently to your team-mates. Stay off your laptop, quit looking at your phone, and avoid having side conversations – it’s distracting to others and to you. You’ll miss hearing tidbits that could help you, or you may cause them to have to repeat themselves because you weren’t paying close enough attention. Third – be heard. Some people are quieter than others, but particularly if part of your team is distributed in different locations, a quiet-talker likely won’t be heard and someone may miss important information.
  3. Don’t “wing it”. Come prepared. Don’t waste the teams’ time by showing up unprepared. Nobody benefits when you make stuff up because it’s “your turn” to talk and you’re not ready. You are a valuable member of the team – give your valuable information to the team.
  4. Focus on providing meaningful information. Instead of saying “yesterday I did X, today I’ll do Y”, tell the team what was accomplished yesterday that is of value to them, and what you’ll do today that will move the team closer to success. Nobody cares about the minutia of your day; what they want to hear is what was or will be done that helps them.
  5. It’s not about you. Along with providing information that others on the team need, look for opportunities to “swarm” or help other team members complete their work, especially if their work is a higher-ranked item. The goal of the sprint is not to make sure you complete your work (although you do want to complete your work); the goal is for the team to complete the teams’ work for the highest value items. It’s not about you – it’s about the team and delivering value.
  6. Be honest, don’t sugar-coat. Tell it like it is. Agile values honesty, and continuous improvement. If we don’t tell the whole story, or we try to lessen the severity of an issue, it doesn’t help us resolve the problem. I heard the term “green-shifting” many years ago, and it applies to this tip. Green-shifting is a practice (a bad practice) of spinning a situation to look less severe than it is. For example, an employee yells “the building is on fire”. Their Team Lead tells the Manager “there’s smoke coming from the windows”, who in turn tells the Director that “it seems really hazy out today”, who tells the VP that “the weather today is having a slight impact on productivity”. If the building is on fire, tell the real story so we can put the fire out.
  7. Be proactive; bring up potential issues/blockers before they become big. If a situation comes up that makes you nervous, bring it up during the Stand-up before it becomes a real problem. If you use “the 3 questions” format, let team members know that the item is not yet a blocker, but is a concern. This allows the team to help mitigate it before it becomes an actual problem.

Bonus tip – here’s a tip that’s not directly associated with the Daily Stand-up itself, but is related:

  • Take advantage of the time together. The Stand-up is time-boxed (usually 15-minutes), but when the Stand-up is finished, you don’t have to immediately disperse back to your desk or turn off the conference phone/video. Instead, while everyone is together, briefly bring up something that could benefit the whole team, or just hang around and chat with a team member that you need to talk with. Also, Agile fosters continuous improvement, so you don’t have to wait for the end-of-sprint Retrospective to bring up something that may help the team now. Everyone is together for the Stand-up – take two minutes afterward to bring up an improvement.

There are lots of good ideas to help improve the effectiveness of your Daily Stand-ups – these are just a few. It’s easy to find good tips – it’s more difficult to actually do something about it. Start with one or two of these ideas, then add more as time goes on. You’ll be surprised at how effective and more enjoyable your Daily Stand-ups become.

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