Daily Standups are for intra-team communications

01 Dec

I’ve been teaching a lot of Agile courses lately, and a very common point of discussion is the way the Daily Standup meeting is often abused and misused. Words like “micromanagement” are often used.

The primary purpose of the daily standup is for the team members to communicate with each other about their progress against the tasks they are working on. A coincidental benefit is that a leader or manager gets to hear about what’s going on. The meeting is for the team NOT for the manager!

The most common structure for the daily standup is the three questions from Scrum:
What have you done since the last meeting?
What will you do before the next meeting?
What is in your way?

Each member of the team should answer the questions in less than one minute. The answer should be against the tasks they have committed to, and the response should be short, sharp and to the point. The whole meeting should take no more than 15 minutes.

For example, lets say you are busy with a two-day task –

If everything’s on track, your response would be something like:
I started on task xyz,
I will continue with task xyz,
Nothing’s in my way

These responses let your team mates know that you are on track and they don’t need to be concerned about your progress.

On the other hand, if you’ve been pulled off the task to work on a production problem then your responses might be:
I started on task xyz and had to leave it to spend half of the day on the production problem, (your team mates now know that they have to adjust their work on any tasks which are dependent on you finishing yours)
I will need to continue working on the production problem – that will take me out all day (now your team mates know that they need to adapt to not just a half-day delay, but a day-and-a-half)
The production problem is in my way (this is something the manager/leader might be able to do something about)

Another common state is when you discover that the task is more complex than you thought:
I started on task xyz,
I will continue with task xyz,
I’m struggling with the task, I thought it would take me 2 days, but now that I’ve started it looks like i will need 4 days. (You might BRIEFLY describe what the issue is)

If someone else on the team could help you with the problem then they may say so, but you mustn’t solve the problem in the standup – talk about it together afterwards.

The key to an effective standup is keeping it short and focused, your team mates don’t want to hear the details of your day(“I spent three hours talking to Mary, wrote 500 lines of C code and spent 30 minutes in the bathroom”) they do need to hear about things that will impact their work and if you need their help.

A note for managers – the daily standup is NOT the dreaded “status meeting” – please don’t turn it into one. They waste the whole team’s time, and don’t add any value to the team’s work. If you really need a status meeting, hold it every month or so, and trust your team to work in the organization’s, the project’s and the team’s best interest in the meantime.

What do you think – how do you make sure the daily standup achieves it’s positive purpose?

Here’s an example of how NOT to run a daily standup:

Posted by Shane Hastie


Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Agile


Tags: ,

3 responses to “Daily Standups are for intra-team communications

  1. Devon Smith

    December 2, 2010 at 3:51 am

    I think having the team run the meeting really helps- you don’t answer to the manager, you answer to each other.

    We also have our project managers participate, they tell us what they are doing and what they are waiting on to move forward.

    Great comments on this topic though. The standup can be a really useful tool!

  2. mike lowery

    December 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I like the post it covers the basics of the stand up nice and clearly. One aspect I think you missed is the role that the Scrum Master (or what ever you choose to call it) plays in making this work well. For example challenging team members who say things like “yesterday i did stuff and today i will work on coding”. Or listening out for hidden impediments when team are only saying what they are doing and not actually using the info. Getting the team in to the right mindset and flow is not to be underestimated.

    • Katrina McNicholl

      December 10, 2010 at 8:43 am

      Well written Mike, I totally agree with you. I am currently scrum master for a large team, our standups are kept to 15mins and we follow all of the above principles. However, the biggest challenge I am facing is finding the confidence to challenge the team members without sounding like I am big brother with a stick. I remind the team that I am simply standing beside them with a voice to bring out theirs, in order to help others gain the knowledge of what they are working on. As said above a standup is to exchange knowledge, to the ‘whole’ team, it is not a time to justify yourself the scrum master or your PM.

      But I guess like everything confidence comes with experience and experience comes in time.


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