Running an engaging standup

My distaste for meetings is widely known. Anyone who has been around me long enough knows that I consider most of them to be nothing more than an expression of power. So as you can imagine, I faced a good amount of internal struggle when I learnt about the concept of a daily meeting!

In scrum there is a daily meeting called a standup. Scrum in 4 easy steps. Unlike the other meetings, this one held promise. For starters technically people had to stand during the meeting, and even better, everyone gets a chance to talk!

My experience with the practice has been amazing. At this point my advice to anyone testing out scrum or any other agile methodology is to first implement daily scrum, see the benefits then roll out the other practices. What led to such a dramatic change in mindset? Well quite a number of things actually, in summary

  • Clarity: Nothing brings as much clarity to a project as much as knowing what everyone else is doing. As I always say, The speed of a project is largely determined by how well everyone understands what is going on..
  • Internal commitment: In a standup, you promise to do something in the coming 24 hours. This promise is not made to a “boss” or a stranger. Rather, it is made to peers who you feel some camaraderie with and would not want to disappoint.
  • Progress: There is no bigger motivator than a sense of progress. Standups provide the perfect avenue to celebrate milestones hit on the way to the goal. Also, no one wants to be the guy who has nothing to speak of at the meeting. Thus providing, even more, impetus to push things ahead.
  • Early detection of problems: Blockers get exposed almost as soon as they are discovered. This then ensures that they can be corrected when the cost of doing so is at its least.
  • Reduced documentation. What is not said in a standup would probably have been said in some lengthy document somewhere. Now documentation is important, but lengthy documentation is counter productive, it hides potentially useful information in a flood of obvious material.

Hopefully, by now, I have convinced you to at least give it a try. If so then here is the process by which to run one.

  1. Begin with all developers and the scrum master seated around a table
  2. Go around the table with each of the developers answering the questions: – What did you do yesterday to move the sprint forward? – What will you do today? – What are the obstacles in your way?
  3. Ensure that the meeting lasts a maximum of 15 minutes. If anything has not been said in that time, then have that discussion in a separate meeting. A long meeting is the worst way to start a day.
  4. As the questions are being asked, have the team looking at the sprint board or trello board for that sprint. It goes without saying that if you are using a physical board then the meeting needs to be held where the board is.
  5. If a person strays, say they start providing a solution to the blocker, then set time for a sidebar. Feel free to add that as a task item to the board
  6. Ideally, the meeting should happen the same time every day and preferably in the morning hours.
  7. Ensure no task is left on the Today list. If it has not been completed, then take it back to the backlog. Remember half complete features are worthless.
  8. For what is not met, you are to query gently the developer to know what went wrong and how the other developers can help out.
  9. The last person to arrive at the standup speaks first followed by the others in order of punctuality.
  10. Have developers speak of only what is on the board, if it is not on the board, then add it!
  11. Ensure that the developer actively answering the questions is addressing the team and not the facilitator.

By carrying out the practice as outlined above, you are likely to benefit in the way that I did.

Do you do standups in your organization? Tell me in the comment section below or on my twitter @jchex


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Software Project Manager