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How to run a more effective daily scrum or daily standup

By 08/06/2021 September 1st, 2021 One Comment

Run well, a daily standup or daily scrum is a great pulse check, team builder and motivator for a project; run badly, it’s an expensive waste of everyone’s time. An effective daily standup is a chance to review progress, get feedback, measure productivity, and adapt together as a team, to keep a project moving in the right direction. Leading a standup or daily scrum isn’t difficult – but leading them well is a bit trickier. As project managers or Scrum masters, we want to lead our project teams well and our projects to succeed, so here’s how to run a more effective daily standup meeting.

Turning A Daily Stand-Off Into A Scrummier Stand-Up

The daily standup (or daily scrum) is one of the most recognized components of the Scrum framework and the Agile methodology more broadly. However, it’s often the first to plummet over the dreaded SDLC (software development lifecycle) waterfall that the agile framework is trying to avoid. What typically starts as 15 minutes, three questions, and a daily Scrum ceremony regresses into a status meeting that lost control over the rapids, bounced off some rocks, and is now sitting stagnant in the pool beneath the waterfall. How do we avoid this regression and keep the standup moving and clear of the waterfall? Read on my friend.

First, let’s review the properties of a typical agile team daily standup:

  • 15 minutes or less
  • Answer three questions:
    • What did I do yesterday?
    • What will I do today?
    • What is blocking me from making progress?
  • Create a 24-hour plan of action for the Scrum team
  • Everyone standing (not required, but encouraged)

Often, these simple properties become too routine, laziness takes over and your daily scrum goes awry. We forget the targeted outcome and benefits of collaboration, understanding, and planning, and instead become standoffish as team members compete for time and attention, or worst of all, stop engaging altogether. Here are five simple tips to make your daily standup less of a stand-off.

1. Change The Standup Language

The three questions themselves sound status-like – we’re trying to avoid that! Try changing a few keywords and the intent to communicate obstacles, progress, and planning toward sprint goals outcomes is easily achieved.

  • What did I accomplish yesterday that brought me closer to our sprint goals?
  • What will I accomplish today that will bring us closer to our sprint goals?
  • What is blocking me from achieving our sprint goals?

This change also eliminates the conversation of “I attended a meeting,” “I ate pizza for lunch,” “I took my dog for a walk (wait, weren’t you at work?!)”

2. Eliminate The Waste

If you’re finding your daily meeting is taking too long or ends up with too much chit-chat, how about trying two questions instead:

  • What does the entire team need to know?
  • What do you need help with?

It still achieves the same outcome but eliminates some of the conversation that is not directly related toward achieving our sprint goals. Does the team need to know what you ate for lunch? No. Do they need to know what meeting you attended? Maybe. What you need help with? Yes!

3. Take Away The Distractions

This is an easy one. If people are looking out a window, move away or pull a shade. Other teams too loud? Move to a different area. Teams looking at computers and multitasking? Use a physical board. Not listening? Have them close their eyes (the lack of a sense heightens the others).

4. Walk The Board, Not The Team

Many teams use a board to view in process sprint stories. Many teams also run their standup in the same order every day. Yes, we do have to take turns, but instead of organizing the board by the people on the team, view each user story by column on the task board.

Now teams look at all the items in progress at once, not just their own. This eliminates the question of “What do I work on next?” because they can see what is still in progress. It keeps focus on the stories that help achieve the sprint goals and can identify when teams are working on out of scope items. To continue to mix up the order, the last person can call on the next (constant vigilance!).

5. Keep It Fresh

The daily scrum can still get boring (we do it every day!). Keep it fresh by having everyone tell a bad joke, tossing a ball, and bringing in treats on occasion. This also makes it more fun and can build team rapport!

Summary

These are just a few items to get project managers acting in the Scrum master role moving toward a more effective standup and away from the waterfall trap. When you notice stagnancy, try to freshen up the questions, context or location. Talk about the sprint goal and stories, not the meetings. Encourage the team to work together and plan together, not make a stand-off for time and attention. What other things have you done to improve your daily scrum meeting or standup meeting?

Natalie Warnert

Natalie Warnert

As a developer turned Agile coach, Natalie Warnert deeply understands and embraces the talent and environment it takes to build great products. Her extensive experience in Agile methods and user experience makes Natalie’s skills an asset to any team’s continuous improvement journey. From building the right product to building the product right, Natalie drives strategy and learning through validation. Her recognized expertise has earned her a reputation as a thought leader in the Agile industry. You will often find her speaking at conferences, and she has been invited to share her ideas at the national and international level. Natalie is a SPC, CSP, CSM and has experience in Lean, Six Sigma and Kanban coaching. She recently finished her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership and is very passionate about her thesis topic: increasing women’s involvement in the Agile and technology community (#WomenInAgile). You can read more about Natalie’s ideas and contact her through her website: www.nataliewarnert.com

One Comment

  • image Katherine says:

    I have team members asking to leave early once their “status” is done but I feel all members should stay (meeting takes max 20 mins) so that they have an overview of all work and can hear what their fellow team mates are working on. Anyone have this problem?

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