The Daily Standup for an Agile Coach
This topic is an excerpt from "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Agile Coaching", where agile42 coaches share their insights. Electronic copies of the whole book can be downloaded for free, check link at the bottom.
The daily standup is a short-term planning meeting. Although the meeting is not exclusive to agile methods, it's an integral part of many agile methods including Scrum, Kanban and XP.
For an agile coach, the daily meeting forms a great opportunity to observe the team and ask some coaching questions. Let the meeting run its course while you observe and listen, make notes and form hypotheses. While every team is different, there are some items to keep in mind:
- Situation: Does the team report to itself or the ScrumMaster? Is the situation presented honestly? Do they have facts and information in front of their noses? Is the granularity right (tasks less than one day in length)
- Focus: Is the goal clear? Is the team focusing on getting the next backlog item done, rather than ensuring everyone has work for the day? Is there a lot of bureaucratic overhead?
- Speaking: Does everyone get the opportunity to speak? Who speaks most, who is most silent? Do people listen intently or are they just waiting for their own turn? Are people supporting each other?
- Decision-making: Who makes decisions? Is it one person or the whole team? Do they evaluate multiple options? Are decisions based on facts? If they make guesses, do they go on to validate the decisions before investing time?
- Language: Does the team have their own "slang"? Does the body language support the verbal message?
- Trust: Are they showing respect for each other and for other teams? Are they having fun together? Are they able to bring up difficult topics? Are they showing courage?
Standups are also a good moment to evaluate team agreements, for example retrospective action points, daily goals, checking burndown charts, urgent tickets or any other things the team agreed to check daily.
If you have something to discuss with the team or just want to share your observations, you can ask them to stay on for a few more minutes after the meeting. It's polite to make this request before the meeting starts.
- Avoid asking each person on the team to give one status report; focus instead on the stories and priorities. Focus on the work, not the worker.
- Pass a ball (or some token) around to indicate whose turn it is to speak and to add dynamism to the daily standup.
- Team members should be speaking and making eye contact with each other, not reporting to the ScrumMaster.
- If the team is not finding the meeting useful, find the root cause and fix it, rather than abandoning the meeting. Often the granularity of the tasks does not match the frequency of the meeting, or people do not collaborate.
- Use a “parking lot” for discussions that are too long or do not concern the wholeteam. Keep the stand-up focused, finish it on time, and then anyone who needs to continue the parked discussions can do so after the meeting is over. Anyone has the right to call “time out”.
- Towards the end of the meeting, ask questions like: "Which story are you going to finish next?" or "Do you have in front of you all the information you need to make good decisions?"