May 29, 2012

Revive Your Daily Standup

A mature team must understand the goal, follow the principles, and then apply the appropriate techniques to achieve the goal for the daily standup

Be honest: is your daily standup meeting (or daily Scrum) highly valuable, or is it really just a status meeting where everyone goes through the motions, answering the standard three questions like zombie automatons?

Why a Daily Standup?

Let’s start with why. What is the purpose of the daily stand up?

  • To agree as a team on how to deliver the most value in the next working day
  • To inspect and adapt the sprint plan if necessary, in order to deliver the most value in the sprint

We also have a set of lean & agile principles to guide us in the daily standup.

  • Focus on outcomes over output (or results over activity)
  • Focus on priorities
  • Emphasize team ownership of results over individual assignments

The standard format of three questions (What did you achieve? What will you achieve? What impediments are in your way?) too easily devolves into a mere status meeting, failing to achieve the purpose of the daily standup and failing to embody these principles. 

A mature team must first understand the goal, follow the principles, and then skillfully apply the appropriate tools and techniques to achieve the goal for the daily standup.  Here are a few techniques to add to your toolbox.

The Sprint Goal

A set of three different questions as suggested by Olaf Lewitz.

  • What did we (as a team) achieve to get closer to the sprint goal?
  • What is blocking us from focusing on the sprint goal?
  • What do we agree on doing today to make sure we reach the sprint goal?

The Two Plus One Questions

This technique, as suggested by Andrea Tomasini, starts by asking each person the first two questions:

  • What did I achieve since last time?
  • What impediments are still in my way?

Based on these answers the team as a whole can devise the best plan for the day. Finally, each individual can clarify her/his commitment to the team’s plan by answering the 3rd question:

  • What do I commit to achieving today?

The Story of the Day

Dave Sharrock proposes a single question to get the team to focus:

  • Which story will we finish today?

Walk The Board

This format has been promoted by Jason Yip. It also makes good use of the scrum board / task board / kanban board, as shown in the diagram below. (You do have a highly visible team board, I hope?) 

  1. Gather around your team’s task board (or kanban board). 
  2. Start with the highest priority story/feature in progress.
  3. Ask what we, as a team, can do to get that story done (per our Definition of Done).
  4. Ask what is blocking us, as a team, from getting the story done.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 for the next few priority items, up to your team’s WIP limit. 
  6. To finish, validate that everyone on the team has been heard and all are focused on the top priority stories.

Focus On Priority

As with any complex system such as a product development team there is no one best practice. A good ScrumMaster will carefully consider the context and situation before deciding how to facilitate the meeting, and will likely try new techniques to keep it interesting and innovative.

Have you found an effective way to facilitate the daily standup? Leave us a comment.


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Brad Swanson

Brad Swanson started his software career at age ten on the Apple IIe and is now a Certified Scrum Trainer® and Coach with eighteen years of experience in management, project and program leadership, product management, and software development.
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Brad Swanson

Brad Swanson started his software career at age ten on the Apple IIe and is now a Certified Scrum Trainer® and Coach with eighteen years of experience in management, project and program leadership, product management, and software development.

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