5 Things You Should Never Say (or Do) During Daily Stand-up

When I work with teams to help them adopt Scrum, I try to avoid absolute phrases such as “always” or “never”. This is because Scrum is a framework that is designed for teams to develop their own way of working within specific guidelines and boundaries provided by the framework. At times, I catch myself using those terms, but at other times, I realize that “absolutes” may actually apply to certain situations because of the impact they have on the team as a whole. Although it may sound like I’m about to contradict myself, from working with many teams over the past several years, I have discovered a few phrases (and actions) that lead to negative outcomes. As a result, I have decided to share some of these lessons that I have learned while working with teams. Read ahead and see if these might be useful for your team.

During your Daily Stand-up, you should NEVER…

  1. Say “what’s your status?” – This seemingly harmless question can send your Daily Scrum/Stand-up down the wrong path faster than you can say “Scrum”. By using the term “status”, the team is subconsciously led to believe that this is a status meeting, which is one of the worst things that can happen to your Daily Scrum. Try to avoid this mistake and replace this with: “what’s our priority today?”, “What is our goal today?”, or something similar to encourage collaboration.
  2. Say “Still working on the same ticket as yesterday…no impediments” – This is by far one of the most common statements that I have heard, and not only is this not helpful to the team, it encourages the other members of the team to do the same thing, which does not enhance transparency or teamwork. If someone on your team makes this statement, try to ask open-ended questions such as “what have you done to make progress towards our Sprint Goal? How can the others help you?”.
  3. Ask a lot of technical questions – By asking technical questions, you risk derailing this meeting and turning it into a problem-solving session, which is one of the most common mistakes teams make. Find a way to gracefully and politely redirect the question and stop the dialog from taking flight as soon as you can; you don’t have to be the Scrum Master to see this happening, and you can halt this conversation by saying something along the lines of: “If it’s okay with you, it might be best for us to discuss this after the Scrum is over so we can dive into the details.”.
  4. Discuss work items that are NOT in the current Sprint Backlog – The purpose of the Daily Scrum is for the team to work towards meeting the Sprint Goals, which means the team needs to focus only on the work that has been planned for the current Sprint. Some team members may have a reason to discuss a future sprint or another work item in the Product Backlog, which should be handled outside of the Daily Scrum.
  5. Make announcements about organizational activities – Many teams that I have coached deal with Daily Scrums that have sporadic attendance by the Product Owner because he/she is usually very busy with his/her “day job”. A common side-effect of this is that the Product Owner may feel the need to share organizational changes (i.e. “flow-downs”) from senior management. While this is important information that the team should have, the Daily Scrum is not the forum for this type of conversation since it takes focus away from the work and encourages a lot of questions. My suggestion: find another opportunity to share these types of announcements so that the team can make progress towards their Sprint Goals.

To wrap up this short article, often times, avoiding making simple, common mistakes will significantly increase the chances of success. This is why I have always been a big fan of “anti-patterns”. Be on the lookout for these potentially negative behaviors and your team should reap the benefits very quickly.

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai