Daily Stand-up, Beyond Mechanics: A Measure of Self-Organization

1 June 2011

Bachan Anand
Conscires Agile Consulting

The daily stand-up is a 15-minute meeting for Scrum teams. It provides an opportunity to touch base on progress toward daily commitments and sprint goals. The ScrumMaster, product owner, and all team members participate in this daily meeting. To keep the daily stand-up focused, each team member answers the same three questions:

  • What was completed in the last 24 hours?
  • What is planned for completion in the next 24 hours?
  • What (if any) roadblocks are impeding progress?

Objective of the stand-up

Beyond the mechanics, stand-up is a daily focus check. How is the team progressing toward fulfillment of the sprint commitment? It identifies concerns immediately and provides an opportunity to discuss corrective action. Stand-up promotes collaboration among team members through the synchronization of work and consequent opportunities to give and receive support. With this high level of visibility, the product owner is able to monitor progress and review stories completed by the team.

Why three questions?

The intention of posing the three questions is to keep the team focused on the present: What is complete (where do we stand today in relation to our goal), what is in progress, and what are the current impediments? Emphasis is on maximizing focus and collaboration within the next 24 hours.

Beyond mechanics

The daily stand-up can be an excellent measure of how well a team is poised to meet the sprint commitment and even to what degree the team has embraced Agile values. The table below illustrates how the stand-up calls for agility, scope for growth (anti-pattern behavior), and finding potential solutions.

 

Team Values/Foundations High-Performance Pattern High-Performance Examples Scope for Growth Potential Solutions
Self-Organization Team members fully engaged, conversation between team members Team members grab tasks off the task board, recognize need for different disciplines (QA and engineer working together) Team members report to ScrumMaster/PO/manager versus team discussion "Look at Your Shoes" technique: SM/PO/manager looks at his/her shoes each time a team members look at him/her during stand-up
Focus Team members hone in on what's most important, what's standing in the way Team members police each other on focus, are willing to call each other out when getting off topic: “Let’s discuss this after the meeting." Discussion wanders to problem-solving or other topics, important but better discussed after stand-up ScrumMaster can assign specific phrase or code word to alert when discussion loses focus; moderating is more of a game
Collaboration Team members offer help to each other, not afraid to ask for assistance “How could I support you? How could you support me? Let us discuss after the meeting.” SM/PO must remind team members of dependencies of work and point out opportunities for support Third question changes to, “What is stopping us from completing this work?” Helps team members realize they're not alone in any task
Rhythm Consistent and brisk flow of control throughout stand-up from one person to another; no external "go"signal required; everyone in charge, hence no one in charge Perfect popcorn discussion, no team members talking over each other (eye contact and anticipation) ScrumMaster must consistently prompt next person to share, team members wait for "go" signal Move stand-up location near sprint task board (tangible prompt for team members); have stand-up at same time, same place every day.
Courage Expose and confront roadblocks, accept and embrace change when needed If burn-down is not progressing as it should, team members have the courage to speak up Everyone ignores elephant in the room, avoids difficult discussions Use comment box: place to post sticky notes explaining concerns with process/progress
Respect Team members, ScrumMaster, product owner treat each other with consideration; appreciate the value of stand-up Attendees on time for stand-up and monitor time elapsed Team regards stand-up solely as opportunity for ScrumMaster and product owner to check up on team; no thought of mutual gain Limit or eliminate SM and/or PO from meeting; consider note-taking, timekeeping; stop any rituals that could convey judgment

Food for thought

What patterns have you seen in your stand-ups? What have you done to make those daily meetings meaningful?

Have you seen a team of six or more evolve beyond the need for a daily stand-up? How did that team stay focused and meet commitments?

Please share your stories, insights, and comments with our Agile community.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



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Comments

Andreea TOMOIAGA, CSM, 6/3/2011 4:06:22 AM
Great article, I think it comprises very well the essence of stand-ups. What problem I saw more frequently was regarding the focus, for example when there is some impediment that is shared across several team members. This often happens at the start of the project. In these instances in general overcoming the impediment means finding out an approach that highlights architectural and design guidelines overseen at first. All members are eager to talk about these and to share a common understanding. In such cases if 2 or 3 team members start this topic, the others can barely talk and the focus is lost. This is the one of the most difficult moments to regain the focus and to stop the extra talking in the context of stand-up.
Sriram Somayajula, CSM, 6/15/2011 2:50:11 PM
This is a great article and clearly articulates both the importance as well as solutions for some of the most common challenges we experience during these meetings.
I think Andreea pointed out a very interesting (and often experienced) problem and any pointers in solving this kind of problem are appreciated.
Krishna Chodipilli, CSP,CSM, 6/16/2011 11:07:46 AM
Hi Andreea/Sriram - I have faced the situation where 2 or more want to share their thoughts during a stand up. I request them that we can talk offline (straight after the stand up), this helped me to get the focus back and not hold everyoneΓÇÖs time over an issue. After the stand up get these brains back and solve the problem/move forward.
This approach has
Bachan Anand, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/17/2011 1:28:23 AM
I like the suggestion from Krishna on suggesting to take the discussion offline. I have done the same or sometimes I let one or two of those discussion pass and wait for the retrospective where some team member brings up how we were dragging the stand-up and the team comes up with suggestion to flag such conversation by using a Parking Lot or just team members raising hands when someone is off topic.
Ilan Goldstein CST PMP ACP, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/19/2011 1:19:06 AM
The general pattern that I follow with my daily standups is as follows:
1) I ensure everyone is on time unless there are exceptional circumstances (we have a $2 late jar for those who don't turn up on time...)
2) I encourage a minute or two of general banter/jokes etc. This shouldn't be contrived but it is a good thing if it starts to set a positive mood for the standup and the rest of the day!
3) I ensure that each team member only reports on the 3 questions and this shouldn't take any longer than 30 seconds
4) Any issues or elaboration is always taken 'offline' i.e. once everyone has gone through their 30 second reports. Only those who are involved in the discussion need hang around
5) We conduct the standup around the task board for reference
6) As we have multiple parallel Scrum teams, I ensure that an 'ambassador' from each team attends the other team's standups rather than conducting a Scrum of Scrums. These 'ambassadors' assist in knowledge sharing and identifiying relevant integration points
Malcolm Duff, CSM, 6/20/2011 11:45:45 PM
This is a timely article since some of our stand ups are becoming too much of a status meeting. To help alleviate we rotate the facilitation of the stand up to the engineers and this takes the focus off the SM and/or product owner. It also emphasizes the self organize element and gets some banter going in the row as to who's the lead that day. We also have the board visible and sometime go by story rather than by person. For our distributed team members video and excellent audio are critical for making them feel part of the stand up. I like the idea of a parking lot to quickly record items for later follow up.
Mark Saraceni, CSPO, 6/22/2011 11:19:08 AM
Excellent, easy-to-understand summary of the Stand Up. As others have commented, it helps to focus the group on the self organizing structure -- and everybody's responsibility to the rest of the team within that structure. I will refer my clients to this.
James Peckham, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/23/2011 8:42:08 AM
Thanks for this article. I've seen our scrums getting more and more distracted to ideas about design and questions about requirements (and answering them). I often wonder, if the team has taken care of all of the coordination in the first 5 minutes, should i boot them out so that they don't rush through these other things without thinking them through thoroughly or am i sending the signal not to communicate them at all?

Sometimes, I say "Hey team, sorry to interrupt. Those things you are saying are very important and we probably shouldn't try to rush them into the remaining 5-10minutes of this status meeting, would it be valuable to setup a follow up meeting?"

Most Often I'm wrong, so then it seems annoying when I do it. Although, I'm getting use to the idea of 'being annoying' just as long as i'm not disruptive. :)

Anyhow just some thoughts.
Pavan Kumar Goorishetty, CSM, 6/26/2011 5:30:24 PM
Good Article Anand.
Luis Castro-Pou, CSM, 7/4/2011 5:38:04 PM
Hi Bachan,
Nice article - short, sharp, and practical ... :-)

Here are some of tidbits of practices I like to use with teams, if it helps the team(s). As any other practive, we initially suggest (hypothesis), then reach team agreement, start using, and then review; and, if not beneficial change it - PDCA).

I like to make it fun for the team(s) that I work with; at the start of the standup meeting we randomly throw a small toy ball (lite) to kickoff the meeting. Then the ball is tossed around randomly to the next team-member, the team is alert and has fun with it.

For the those team members who may be extending their talk-time (1-2min, depending), I use a toy "Stop Sign" to remind them that they should table the subject for now (per team agreement); and, then they should meet right afer the meeting to discuss/solve the problem they need help on, only with the team-members that would help. If needed, I also use like to have a visible wallclock in the room - specially when the room is used by more than one team.

Also, I find it very effective to meet around the task-board and start the meetings with reviewing the burndown (BD) and buildup (BU) charts. This gives general progress and understanding of the "sprint health" to the team. Additionally, I like to use the concept of a "sprint health flag" (assessed from the review of the charts above and agreed upon with the team), this flag is located on the board itself (visible). At the start of a sprint, the flag is green; then, when sprint progresses the flag may go yellow; and, then red :-( ... The flag is a clear visual signal to the team at work and anybody visiting the team room (transparency).

- "Happy cows produce better milk; happy people produce better results!" :-) - L.C.
Bachan Anand, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 7/5/2011 12:30:58 AM
Thanks Luis . I had of the team I am coaching come up with a similar idea for keeping the stand-up moving by using a ball. Looks like it is working for them as well.

Love your comments about Happy Cows !

Work is Good !
Ashish Parmar, CSM, 8/23/2011 9:22:48 AM
Nice article, Anand. The commencement of daily stand meetings was an interesting phase that our team went through. I must say that it was not embraced in the beginning and especially the older team members did not like the concept. "We feel like standing and reporting to kids every morning" was one the concerns that an older team member shared with me. We still used to have the daily stand up meeting and I, as a Scrum Master, would take a note of the body language apart from the members answering the three questions. After the daily stand up meeting, I would go to each team members and discuss their concerns, if any. This discussion helped me in explaining the purpose of the daily stand up meeting and also resolve any other issues. The concerns regarding the "reporting" part mellowed down and now the same team members look forward to the daily stand up meeting.

And yes, there are discussion that lead the whole group off track. For example, one of the team members is a soccer coach and talks about soccer practice at the start of the daily stand up meeting. Talking to that team member and explaining the importance of the time limit and also trying to achieve maximum in the daily stand up meeting has helped resolve that issue too (though we still hear about soccer practice from time to time) :)
Suresh Vodapally, CSM, 9/28/2011 6:08:29 PM
Rolling ball works good, but not always, when there is a serious problem (impedament) that needs to be addressed during the standup, i think it is ok when situation demands the dragged standup. Team deliverables important than the Scrum process. I am not against SCRUM.
Rahul Joshi, CSM, 10/2/2011 10:23:50 AM
Nice article Bachan. It describes the daily scrum in nutshell.

Would like to describe my experience when we used to say let's take it offline in daily scrum. The team used to feel that the offline conversation may not occur or may not happen on time. Certainly these conversations are time critical to remove impediments.

What we have done is allocated extra 15 mins on calendar which is dedicated time to discuss impediments and next steps. Team member(s) who are affected by impediment are the only one who needs to attend this meeting. Others are free to go and continue their work. In reality, we do not require 15 mins on a daily basis. Many times, team finish impediment discussion within daily scrum time itself as they are limiting their conversations to 3 basic questions.

This has been working great so far. Team also sees output (next steps) right after daily scrum. If there is better solution I would like to hear and adopt.
Dr. Sanjeev Raman, PMI-ACP, SPC, SA, SPM/PO, SP, CCA, CSP,CSM,CSD,CSPO,REP, 2/19/2012 10:11:48 PM
To Ashish's point, I had the opportunity to observe a standup some time back. To give some background, the team was broken as in strong personalities, disagreement between the Product Owner and Team, impediments that never got resolved, etc...

At the time, a Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) was dubbing as the Scrum Master for this project. He first coached them on the importance of the standup and how it was going to be conducted. He enforced rules such as:

1. Big posters in the Team Room that read "Honesty, Ask for Help, Be Transparent, ..."

2. To enforce the 15 minute rule, he made the people that tend to talk a lot to stand on one foot and give their update.

3. And, he made everyone accountable for moving their tasks on the white board to their corresponding status before the day was over, so the Task board would be up to date by next StandUp.

To make a long story short, some people on the team thought it was a joke. This is where I have issues with people that only understand theory versus what makes sense based on the circumstances. Scrum preaches a framework with rules, but its up to you how to implement those rules. People want to jump into "implementation of Scrum" and just go with the generic approaches - without understanding the dynamics of the project and the team. There are sophisticate techniques to implement Scrum, which does require some technical knowledge of tools. I found with a seasoned, mature team, they respect the Scrum Master a lot more when these techniques are used. And vise versa, the Scrum master has to respect the team and should put some thought in understanding their backgrounds and opinions before facilitating the Scrum process.

At the end of the day, if the Team embraces the processes, you will get a lot more productivity - which is good for everyone.
Manish Gupta, CSM, 3/7/2012 2:06:00 AM
Nice Article. I feel (and practice) it is sometimes necessary for the team to discuss few technical issues also in stand-ups. I do not interrupt a person if he discusses a bit of tech issues given he finishes all in max 2 minutes - if not, he/she can definitely take this after standup is finished. I have seen these tech issues helping others also.

Daily Scrums help in enriching "Team commitment" part of Scrum - as a matured team together discuss how to achieve Sprint Goal in Daily Scrums. This was not possible in non-Scrum world.

For new teams, Daily Scrums are bit difficult in earlier phase, but later team understand the need of Daily Scrum - so SMs need to be more patient, active and talkative in earlier phase of team adopting Scrum.
SenthilVel Marimuthu, CSP,CSM, 5/7/2012 6:17:52 AM
Bachan Anand : Nice article!

The patterns which am following are :
1. Have the Stand up meetings for 12 mins.This works well for smaller team sizes ~ 6 + 2 or so.
2. Most of the well matured agile teams come in this time frame - 12 to 15 mins.
3. when the individual team members require a much more lengthier disucssions, the practice is to have
the 1-1 discussions - may also include cross functional teams as well after the Stand up meeting.
4. Impediments board: When certain Impediments are not resolved , it comes in to the Impediments board , which can be discussed the next day.
5. to invite the stake holders - sponsors as well to the Stand up meetings just as Observors for the stand ups.
Rick Tonoli, CSM, 12/10/2012 6:27:53 AM
Nice article but I see no-one has commented on the point of "outgrowing" the stand-up ceremony? I had a discussion my team the other day and asked them whether they understand the value of the stand up. Being collocated and continuously collaborating (you can tell by the steady hum in the room) they questioned the need of doing a stand up every day, after all if they're talking to each other (and this includes to the PO) throughout the day what's the point of coordinating only once per day?

I believe there comes a time when a team outgrows the need for the daily stand up at the point where the collaboration is so high that everyone in the team (including the PO) already knows what people are doing today and tomorrow and where the blockages are. In fact I think the daily stand up encourages people to only coordinate and collaborate once per day.

thoughts?


Glen Wang, CSM, 5/28/2013 10:53:22 PM
As long as all people enjoy & within 15 minutes, a daily stand is successful.

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