Sunday, April 29, 2012

Daily Stand-up Starter Kit

The Daily Stand-up can be one of the easiest or hardest Agile practice to do well.  When introducing the Daily Stand-up (aka, Daily Scrum or huddle), the initial goal is to get people to share their progress in a brief manner.  The benefit of the stand-up is that it promotes transparency of what everyone is doing where you communicate your progress.  It can also be a place to help you understand your impediments where you can collaborate on addressing the challenges. The focus should be on:
  • What I did yesterday (or since the last time the team met)?
  • What I will do today (or until the team meets again)?
  • What impediments have I uncovered?  

The daily stand-up keeps the team aligned as to what everyone is doing. The "What I did yesterday" keeps everyone in-sync on what progress has been made.  The "What I will do today" helps you plan for your day and helps you commit to a day's worth of work.  The "impediments" are to share what is slowing you down or stopping you from making progress. Others can help you address the impediment once the stand-up is over. 

One challenge is when either the sharing of these three questions are too vague (e.g., yesterday I work on the same user story) or too detailed.  The key is speaking with detail yet brevity.  Enough details should be shared to ensure people understand what was worked on (e.g., yesterday I worked on opening the port to allow communications to occur) or what will be worked on (e.g., today I will work on setting up the asynchronous protocol and set a test packet through the port).  To keep from going too long, an initial helpful instruction is for each team member to limit their progress to about 1-2 minutes (assuming a team of 7 +/-).

Part of the initial adoption of the Daily Stand-up is simply getting people to go from one person to another and provide your daily progress. A challenge is when the team members expect the Scrum Master to tell you when your turn is.  Instead, consider a round-robin approach where you identify an order amongst the team to share progress. This can be alphabetical by name or around the virtual table by site. Another helpful technique in a distributed setting is ensuring each person introduces themselves with their name (e.g., I am Mario…) and ending with a code-word such as “Thank you” or “I’m done”, to let the next person know it is his or her turn.  This is particularly useful in a distributed team setting.

Another challenge is that too many team members direct their progress to the Scrum Master (or leader).  Instead, the team should communicate to each other and avoid directing their progress to the Scrum Master. This allows all teams members to know what each other is doing and promotes cross-team communication.

Once the team has a good handle on the daily stand-up, it can be helpful to evolve the process via the Retrospective. This helps the team reflect on the Daily Stand-up and determine if it is satisfying the needs of the team. For example, you may want to view the stories in the sprint backlog in a priority order and ask those that are working on the highest priority work to share their brief status. The benefit of this is that the team can more readily be aware if the highest priority work is getting done. Because the Agile mindset focuses us on working on the priority work first, this ensures that the progress sharing is focused on the highest priority work first and then so on. This also provides more visibility when the highest priority work are not getting done especially when others are getting done. It then can help you rally resources around the higher priority work that isn’t done.

The key is to adopt, reflect, and adapt. Good luck on your Daily Stand-up journey. How do you conduct your Daily Stand-up and have you evolved it over time? If so, in what ways did you evolve it?


  1. Deploying this into action today Mario. Thanks.

  2. Great article, Mario. Keeping to the 15 minute rule is key as well. We needed to coach individuals so they knew that the Stand Up is not the time for pontification. We've found that if the duration is no more than 15 minutes (even 10 sometimes), folks will be more engaged. Actually "Standing up" is helpful as well - it really does work.

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  4. Whilst designed for Agile project work, when working for a large Telco, we implemented stand-ups in our operational teams twice a week, to:
    - grow the collaborative environment, where team members could assist each other, even though they were working on different projects,
    - allow team members to see that even if they might not be able to 'get something' out of the stand-up updates, they might become aware of how they might help
    - expose team members to overlaps in projects which they might not be aware of - it was amazing how often this exposed relationships across projects
    - allow the entire team to see the breadth of work that we were covering, giving a sense of achievement at the team level.
    As per the article, it was important that updates are not directed to the facilitator as a 'project status', but rather to the entire team as (1) what happened yesterday (2) what's happening today, and (3)is there any assistance that I need or can give.
    In this operational team adaptation, it is also very important to maintain strict time rules for updates, and not allow conversation, other than "maybe I can help with that - let's talk later"

  5. Thanks for your input Greg and Ken!
    Hank, how is your Daily Stand-up going?