Agile Forest

Find your path to agility with Renee Troughton

Can them what you will – Daily Scrum, a Huddle or a Stand-up, but whatever you call it a Stand-up is one of the simplest Agile (and arguably knowledge and service management) practices  out there. Three questions are answered by the “core team”:

  • What I’ve done since we last met…
  • What I plan on doing till we next meet…
  • What is impeding me or may soon…

Simple right? Wrong!

These very simplistic set of steps have led many to believe that the key purpose of a Stand-up is as a progress report. To set the record straight:

The key purpose of a Stand-up is the opportunity to collaborate, share and support each other in the delivery of valuable outcomes.

For those that may not have heard of the above interpretation of a Stand-up’s purpose then let’s take the opportunity to understand it further. As each person answers the three questions what the rest of the team should be doing is listening and wondering to themselves the following questions:

  • How will this impact me?
  • How will this help me?
  • Will my work impact them?
  • Can I help them?
  • Can I potentially learn from something they are doing?
  • Can something I’ve done in the past be useful so that they can learn from it or re-use it?

If the answer is ‘Yes!’ to any of these questions then the team member should pipe up and respond. An effective Stand-up isn’t just the team turning up on time and answering the three questions – it is where teams work together to deliver and reach the delivery goals whilst always upholding the values and principles.

Another common Stand-up myth is that they should be 100% valuable to 100% of the core team 100% of the time. This is simply not the case. As we now understand what an effective Stand-up is you will be lucky to find these opportunities consistently and rarely more than three times in a single Stand-up. In fact, you might go through a few Stand-ups before such an opportunity arises – these uncommon instances of “I’d love to learn more about how to do that, care we pair?”, or “I’ve had a similar problem on my last project let me send through to you what we did”, or “I know that person well, let me talk to them and try to push the impediment out” are what make good Stand-ups.

We’ve all heard of tips like taking difficult conversations offline, ensuring everyone can be heard and timeboxing each person to no more than 2 minutes but here are a few tips that I would additionally recommend to make Stand-ups a little more effective:

  1. Touch your cards. If you don’t do this as you are talking the team is mentally trying to match the first sentence of what you said to the Story Wall. As they are doing that mental matching they are no longer listening to what you saying which consequently invalidates the value of the Stand-up.
  2. Take 2-3 mins before the Stand-up to jot down what you want to remark on. If you don’t do this you dramatically increase the likelihood that you are spending time, whilst others are talking, concentrating on what you are about to say. You need to be in the moment of what the team are saying, not what you are about to do.
  3. Jot down any issues or risks remarked on. Ensure that they are visibly attached to stories with clear owners and status/actions.
  4. Hold each other accountable if a team member is talking about work that isn’t reflected on the Story Wall – get the story written up and prioritised against everything else on the go.

Note: Astute Agilistas will notice the subtle changes in the core three questions. Primarily this is because I have seen effective Stand-ups that whilst they are regular and frequent shift away from the activity being daily. Additionally I like to tack on the “or may soon” to the last question because whilst the question focuses on issues the “may soon” is a focus on possible risks.

4 thoughts on “What is an effective Stand-up?

  1. postagilist says:

    I think that a lot of pushback to these types of endeavors is related to the fact that as you mention, what’s being discussed isn’t of interest to 100% of the people 100% of the time.

    There is nothing worse than having the SQL Developers listening to the CSS people drone on about browser compatability.

    I think having an forced daily meeting where topics are by nature only of interest to a subset, that the people who need to talk to each other should of their own accord.

    There should be no reason to force so called professionals into daily hands on meetings when it’s often a waste of time — they should be trusted to collaborate as needed and then the need for the daily scrum largely goes away.

    Just my thoughts here

  2. Thank you for writing this article, it is like a breath of fresh air. At last I can put my finger on what is wrong with the daily status meeting on my waterfall project, especially when the boss refers to it as a scrum.

  3. @postagilist

    In a crossfunctional team, everyone should have 5 to 10 Minutes a day to conduct a daily standup. There are overlapping topics of interest and even learning about the domains of your colleagues can be a thing that happens there.
    It is a matter of doing the standup in a way that most people can benefit. In the end everyone is working for the same product/company.

    However, I have seen different formats, and it’s easy to generate a chance for a 20 minute sleep by holding a standup. In the End, it’s like with the movies: if you are watching a boring movie, you will fall asleep.

    Postings like yours make me wonder, especially because I am warned by the “I think” and “so called professionals” that the text contains that there might be a small amount of cynism and I don not find it very helpful. It would be a lot more interesting to hear what you experience, what kind of requirements, needs and feelings were in play when you made your obvious bad experience with daily standups.


    1. postagilist says:

      You can always I read my blog, I suppose.

      I’m not a so called professional, I’m an actual one…. but thanks for asking/insinuating or whatever you were trying to do there.

      My point, was, and is, almost by definition, a large percentage of the people will be bored a large percentage of the time, in a daily scrum.

      Scrum Traditionalists, and I suspect that you might be one, simply accept this as a necessary evil.

      I don’t find myself in that category however.



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