The standup meeting is a mainstay of Agile and Scrum processes. Done properly, it facilitates quick and efficient interchange of ideas and feedback, keeps everyone on the same page without wasting time, and sets the tone for the day’s work, or the course of an entire sprint.
Done poorly, however, it can be an uncomfortable and expensive waste of time.
What should the team get out of a successful standup meeting?
As they walk away from a well-facilitated standup meeting, a team should feel:
• Energized to tackle the work at hand
• Aware of every team member’s current workload and how their collaborative efforts can assist
• Aware of any upstream or downstream dependencies connected to their work
• Part of a team willing and able to help and support them to accomplish their goals
• That their feedback has been heard and will be acted upon
• That improvements will be supported and problems will be dealt with
• Focused on the goal and ready to go
A talented developer with an attitude shaped in this way can’t help but perform at their best.
What elements should all standup meetings include?
There are many ways to attack the standup meeting and they all have their pros and cons. But certain elements that must be included to make the meeting most effective, including:
1. Participants should all be standing up. This sounds basic, but some teams forget that the entire reason they’re being asked to have a standup meeting is that when everyone comes in and sits down, you’re guaranteed to spend more time than you need to. It’s just human nature, especially when coffee and pastries are involved.
2. Participants should be huddled together. This isn’t the time to have a Scrum Master on stage with a PowerPoint slide presentation and the team in an auditorium-style setting to listen. A standup is a quick, close-knit, productive exchange of ideas.
3. There should be a scrum or Kanban board present. Resist the urge to grab a conference room or quiet and out-of-the-way place meet. If the board isn’t there, the meeting is missing a crucial element.
4. The meeting occurs at the start of the day. The true benefit of the daily standup comes from using it as both a practical discussion about what work has been accomplished and what remains to be done, and also a motivational conversation. For both reasons, it should be the first thing the team does every day.
5. The meeting should occur at the same time and in the same place every day. An effective standup can’t be scheduled for “when everyone gets here.” There must be a start time, and team members should not be late.
6. It is time-boxed to 15 minutes. If your standup meeting takes longer than 15 minutes, one of three things is happening: it’s not being facilitated well, your team is too big, or your project is too big.
7. Every team member is encouraged to answer three basic questions.
1) What did I accomplish yesterday?
2) What do I plan to accomplish today?
3) Are there any blockers or challenges I’m facing today?
8. This isn’t the time to solve every problem or air out every grievance. The purpose of the standup is to get into a productive day of work and to make sure everyone is on the same page. While minor issues can and should be discussed (such as the answer to the third question every team member is asked) big items should be tabled until the retrospective meeting at the end of the sprint.
What follows is a series of options that some teams have found to be successful in their own standup practices. We’ll point out some pros and cons based on feedback from those teams, but we don’t want to sound like we’re favoring one method over another. Really, it’s up to your team to decide what works best for YOU.
In this method, the team stands roughly in a circle within reach of the scrum or Kanban board. Each member of the team is given a chance to answer the three questions, and the discussion proceeds in clockwise order (or some other pre-determined pattern.)
• Super simple
• Everyone knows when to talk and when to listen
• Includes the Power of Three (3 questions)
• Keeps everyone focused
• Usually minimizes extraneous conversation
• Sometimes team members will stray off the story/card they should be discussing
• Sometimes encourages “story telling” since everyone has a free space to fill
In this case, the standup meeting revolves around the tasks that are currently visible on the scrum or Kanban board the team is standing next to. The facilitator will usually physically pull down each task in turn and hold it as it is discussed.
• Highly targeted
• Keeps the team on point, less story telling
• The team may lose the “big picture” view as each item is discussed separately
• Tends to be highly technical, which may cause non-technical members of the team to glaze over
Similar to the last option, but pulling down user stories instead of individual tasks.
• Good compromise between big picture and granular
• Could leave some team members feeling unclear about the discussion, not enough details to be useful.
The Role of the Facilitator
With all these methods, the role of the facilitator cannot be overstated. The most efficient team can be brought down by a poor facilitator and end up wasting time and losing value from the meeting. A good facilitator, on the other hand, keeps everyone on track, accomplishes the goals of the standup, and works to continually improve the process for everyone.
In most cases, the Scrum Master will be the facilitator of the daily standup. It is her job to keep the team on point during the discussion, to pull down the specific tasks or stories to be discussed, and/or to ask the three questions and ensure everyone can hear and understands the answers.
This establishes one point of accountability and gives the team the security of a comfortable habit to rely on every day. However, if that one individual is sick or must be late to work that day, it can throw off the entire day, so a contingency plan is necessary. In these cases, the product owner or a senior team member can step in to facilitate.
In other cases, a team will choose to rotate the facilitator role so everyone in the team has the opportunity to handle the meeting. This rotation can occur daily, weekly, or on the sprint schedule with one team member facilitating meetings throughout the entire sprint.
This method gets the team more involved in the process, which can be beneficial, especially if they are an experienced and self-managed team. It encourages collaboration and shared accountability. However, it can also create a less organized feel, especially for less experienced teams.
There truly is no “right answer” for how to run your standup meeting. Each team must be able to experiment and come up with the method that works best for them, and should consider changing it up on occasion just to keep things fresh.
If your team’s current standup process is not working well, or if you see the need to freshen it up but don’t know what to do, consider bringing in some outside help in the form of a professional Agile coach to assist. The daily standup is too important to let it slide.