The Basics

The Daily Stand-up is part of the Scrum process. The purpose of this meeting is to inform every team member of what other team members are working on and to provide an update on your sprint work. Each team member should answer three questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • Are there any impediments in your way?

Answers to these questions help teams understand the work done by others on the team so that they may function more cohesively. The first question tells others what they should know about any dependency they may have had to wait for from another team member to complete their work. The second question lets the team know if the speaking team member’s current activities may impact their work or if they may assist that team member in completing work. The last question, perhaps the most important, is an attempt to determine what may impede team members from completing work that day. To help clear the obstacles, a scrum master must follow up with team members that have impediments. If the scrum master cannot solve the problem, they must determine a solution with the team member. An added benefit of voicing impediments in the daily stand-up is that other team members might be able to help overcome the challenge. Frequently, this is the case with high-performing teams. For more information on the basics, check out Mountain Goat Software’s “The Daily Scrum Meeting” post.

Value

The value of this activity is the resulting team collaboration, transparency, and project status updates. Meeting daily with the entire team helps members feel like they belong to a team rather than siloed to their specific tasks. If done right, members can provide an unbiased view of a project’s state on a day-to-day basis. This project status update allows team members, product owners, and scrum masters the ability to get ahead of issues before they cause major project failures. It is the canary in the coal mine.

Suggestions

Most scrum teachings will suggest that the Daily Stand-up be a 15-minute time-boxed meeting. It is important that this meeting is completed as quickly as possible while getting the most value from it. How do you make this meeting faster? Take a look at the list below for some help.

Time it – There is a quote that states: “What gets measured, gets improved.” Exactly such will happen in the Daily Stand-up. Try to limit each person to two minutes, but as a word of caution, do not get overzealous here. Above all, you want to get value for the team, and if you are too concerned with keeping it short, you might be cutting short the value of the meeting.

Table it – Do not let either off-topic or even discussions about the sprint run the daily meeting long. A simple rule is to keep to the three questions per person and table all other discussions until after the meeting. How does this work? When someone starts going off topic, stop them, and suggest that we table their comment until after the meeting. All interested parties can then meet afterward to discuss it, and all non-interested parties can get back to work. Team members will appreciate listening to relevant commentary that applies to them.

Come prepared – Group members should come to the meeting aware of the answers to the questions asked. They should not have to try to remember what they worked on the previous day and what they are working on that day. Have the meeting in front of the scrum board to help members recall their user story statuses. If your team cannot all meet in front of the scrum board, have members review their sprint items before the meeting.

Keep it casual – Some groups start reading off user stories or bug system ID numbers along with the user story name. This formality takes time and is not needed. It also causes team members confusion when trying to follow what other team members are working on based on numbers alone. Instead of numbers, state answers in a conversational manner.

Provide expertise – A cognizant and engaged scrum master adds a great deal of value to the Daily Stand-up. Having a knowledgeable scrum master is drastically different from a scrum master that just asks for a status update from each team member without a true understanding of what team members are working on and at least a cursory knowledge of the work. A scrum master should facilitate the meeting and be actively engaged in status updates. This engagement means a scrum master should address a team member if a status update is incomplete, is a repeat from the previous day, or is a deviation from the agreed upon user story. An engaged scrum master should also identify a story that is taking longer than expected. This last item is crucial to successful sprints. When a story is taking longer than the estimate, the team then determines if there is a resolution to the impediment or if the team member needs help. The key is that the scrum master understands why something might take longer and can communicate this to concerned parties.

Objections

The Daily Stand-up is a frustration for many new scrum teams because some team members will not see the value in it. They find it a time waste. To overcome this concern, review the value of the meeting with the team and apply the tips listed here to limit the duration of the meeting. Always consider adjusting the process to your team’s unique makeup.

The Daily Stand-up is the heartbeat of the Scrum process, and team members will find the true value as they become owners of the meeting.

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