The daily stand up (or daily scrum, if you prefer) is one of the core ceremonies for any Agile team. Providing a unique snapshot of progress, a good daily stand up is an extremely powerful way for the team to work through their commitments together, making sure to hold each other accountable for their work.
As the daily stand up happens at the beginning of the day, it’s easy for it to turn into nothing more than a coffee chat about what happened yesterday (or worse still, what the score in the football last night was). Because the stand up is a small part of routine, without the necessary focus it can quickly lose any value that it is there to provide.
First, remember why we have a daily stand up. Its purpose is for the team to update each other on their progress against their commitment. It’s a forum where blockers or impediments can be raised and taken away from the team. And, importantly, it should act as a springboard to start the day refreshed and motivated.
If your team are more interested in their coffee or toast than what is being discussed around them, introduce a ball that gets thrown around to whoever is talking. Don’t just throw it around the circle in order, though – have it so that you cannot pass the ball to your immediate left or right, but it can go anywhere else, thus making sure to keep the team on their toes.
Whilst routine is important, I’ve found that always holding the stand up in the same location can become tiresome and can often suck the energy out of the team. Here in the UK, the decent weather of our spring and summer months are all too short and so I always get into the habit of holding the stand up outside when possible. There is nothing better than a little vitamin D and the sound of birds chirping to get you in a positive mood!
Ensuring the team are offering the right information can also become clouded over time. We’re not after a running log of what they’ve been up to, but we are interested in their progress towards the sprint goal. Changing the statement from “what I did yesterday” to “what I achieved yesterday” can often be a simple way of getting the right information out.
If the team struggles to identify what a blocker is, then perhaps start with the blockers before moving into progress updates. As an example, I’ve heard many times a team member say that they were pulled into numerous unplanned meetings yesterday, only to go on to say that they had no blockers. Work with the team to educate them on what a blocker really is and get them into the habit of raising them by focusing on blockers before progress.
Good time keeping is essential. If your team are struggling to keep within a 15 minute window, then introduce a visual aid like an egg timer. It’s also very important that you end the stand up right, rather than have it finish on a flat note. We want people to leave the stand up ready to go to work and so it’s important to end the stand up with a bang. Be motivational!
Like anything else that happened during the sprint, make sure you consider the daily stand up when you come to have your end of sprint retrospective. It’s an integral part of the sprint and so it should be discussed with the same regard as every other ceremony.
To wrap this up, I want to encourage you to pay particular attention to the smaller things. Simply changing the venue or the order in which people talk can make a huge difference to the engagement that you get from your stand up. Bigger problems will require more core changes, but start small. Keep things fresh, change when things become stale and above all else, make sure the team are getting what they need from them each and every day.