Our Daily Standup is Stale – What’s the Point?

As a ScrumMaster I’ve had the opportunity to participate and facilitate many daily standup meetings – 6 years’ worth.  There have been excellent standup meetings and conversations – many led to useful and valuable collaborative sessions in which real work was accomplished.  Many were fun; some were tense; and still some were a bit… uninspiring.

It happens to the best of teams – don’t worry.  Some patterns are easy to recognize and provide room for adapting.  The goal of the daily standup is to share meaningful information that involves the team, and that quite likely leads to ACTION.  So, let’s consider the following two scenarios, where a team goes from stale to engaged!

A team member is delivering his daily standup ‘report’ (ugh) by stating what he did the day before, what he will be doing today and mentions no obstacles.  A few team members are looking at the floor.  A couple more are looking at each other, rolling their eyes and sighing.  The remaining ones are looking at the team member who’s speaking and looking past him, hearing but not really listening.  Some are thinking to themselves:

“How is this useful to ME?”

“Didn’t ALL of us make it to THAT meeting/lunch-and-learn/iteration review you’re mentioning?”

“Isn’t this what you do EVERY day/week, task such-and-such?”

The team member did not share any information that required action or engagement from others.  He repeated items that he does with regularity, as part of his role, perhaps, and mentioned his attendance at team meetings or other events in which everyone else took part.  Perhaps not every single daily standup will necessarily yield groundbreaking, actionable information.  But consider including in your daily standup delivery information that is relevant to the TEAM.

Let’s see how this team of 7 conducts a useful (not stale) daily standup:

A Database Developer begins…”Yesterday, I created a new schema definition and checked it in to Git; this new version accommodates engine and UI changes for Story X.  Today I will write queries for the new Java code, specifically for Features A and B.  And, I have an obstacle – the sandbox environment needs to be upgraded to support the new database version.”

On hearing this, the Engine Developer thinks to himself: “Ah, it’s ready – today I will begin to run data through the engine code with the new schema and write the unit test cases…”

The 2 Java Front-End Developers are thinking: “Cool – we can wire the new GUI input to the database…”

The Platform Developer is thinking: “Upgrade sandbox environment, deploy new database, nix impediment – check!”

And the 2 Test Engineers are thinking: “New code, new build – deploy and test!”

The Database Developer did not make mention of commonplace, daily tasks or occurrences, nor did he include information that, as exciting as it may be, might only be useful for him.  What he did mention were items that required action from the team – use the new database with engine and front-end code, test new changes, deploy required, new sandbox environment AND remove an obstacle.  Every member of the team was engaged, heard their call to action, and consumed the information to inspect and adapt their daily priorities. It was not stale; it was USEFUL.

Not every daily standup will have all of these qualities.  But this example highlights aspects of what will make it meaningful.  Oh, and be sure to laugh, crack a joke, plan lunch together – this is YOUR team meeting :-).

About Victor Hernandez

Technology generalist, visual thinker, perennially curious - Inspect and Adapt!
This entry was posted in Developer, Project Manager, QA Tester, Roles, ScrumMaster, ScrumMaster. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Our Daily Standup is Stale – What’s the Point?

  1. Sean says:

    Hi Victor,

    What are your thoughts on the case where there is a small team (under 5 people) who constantly communicate? My team sits next to each other and its rare for more than a few hours to go by before there is some sort of communication on items currently being worked on. In this environment we are finding the daily stand up to be superfluous as we already know what each person is working on and what they have recently completed.

    Thanks,

    -Sean

  2. Victor Hernandez says:

    Hi Sean,

    Ah, I’m delighted to hear that your team has this good level of collaboration and ongoing engagement! Indeed, it would almost seem a bit…unnecessary (I say this cautiously :-)) to ‘enforce’ the Daily Standup strictly for team communication. Is there a Scrum Master providing any facilitation to the team? By what you mention, your team would appear to be quite effective at self-management, hence I ask, as I would expect such an individual to be using the Daily Standup as an additional opportunity to identify common obstacles or items to be addressed, and keep the team from distractions.

    One approach that I has been suggested by other teams and agilists working in very similar manner as you describe, is that of having a Standup at less frequent intervals, and with a more direct goal of identifying issues or impediments vs. their daily focus. One of such cadences might follow a pattern such as Monday AM (“let’s get the week started!”), Wednesday noon (“where are we now as a team, mid-point?”), and Friday PM (“how much closer are we to accomplishing the Sprint goal, and what’s left?”).

    This sounds like a good problem to have, in my opinion. Perhaps this provides a bit of food-for-thought? I’d be interested to know!

    Cheers!

    — Victor

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