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Daily Stand-Up: What is it?

On team level, Daily Stand-Up (DSU) represents one of essential events. It is strictly time-boxed to 15 minutes and it helps team members to coordinate their activities and see if there are any impediments that need to be solved.

DSU is attended by Scrum Master, Agile Team members and Product Owner. During the DSU, that should take place every day, at the same time and place, each of the team members answers three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday to advance the iteration goals?
  • What will I be able to complete today to advance the iteration goals?
  • What’s preventing us from completing the iteration goals?

Purpose of these three questions is for the team to get clear picture of their status, see if they’re on track to complete iteration goal, and get a chance to help each other. On top of that, answers to these three simple questions can:

  • reveal if there are any organizational dysfunctions (to many meetings)
  • enable faster project completion (advice from other team members)
  • address unclear requirements (team can clarify and redefine them)
  • reveal unneeded tasks that don’t contribute to main goal
  • increase collaboration between team members
  • point out planning or project management issues (uncover dependencies, cross-overlap)
  • help surface blockers/impediments

Instead of answering three questions (Round Robin approach), Scrum Master can lead the DSU with “Walking the Board” approach where each person assigned a task describes its status and tells what is left to finalize it. The team walks through all the tasks on task (Kanban) board – starting with tasks that are closest to ‘done’ and therefore provide higher value. Everyone working on a story can then suggest what to do to implement it as quickly as possible. This technique is more dynamic and offers the team a great chance to collaborate and talk about what to do today and in the future to quickly implement the story.

You can learn more about the Walking the Board approach in video.

How to run a successful Daily Stand-Up?

DSU is most useful when held in front of Big Visible Information Radiator (BVIR), such as Kanban board. This way team members can highlight the stories they are referencing.

Scrum Master’s role during DSU is facilitating the meeting, make sure everybody has a chance to talk and team members are taking turns, writing down topics that need further clarifications/discussions and discover what are the impediments and blocking issues to team’s performance that will need to be resolved later.

Here are some tips for the Scrum Master to successfully run a Daily Stand-Up:

1. Keep it short. DSU is time-boxed to maximum of 15 minutes but some teams can also finish it in less than 10. Recipe for success? Don’t engage in off-topic discussions, stick to relevant topics – updates need to be short and to the point.

2. Introduce ‘penalty jar’ or other form of deterrent for those who are late to the meeting.

3. Introduce the ‘parking lot’ where you park all topics/issues that surface during DSU but are unrelated to it. Write them down on the white board and discuss them later: hold a post-meeting discussion for those who need to discuss something more in-depth.

4. Scrum Master should step in and remind members when they are off topic, or they get too much into details.

5. Everyone should stand up during the meeting – seating down makes it more comfortable which will result in longer meeting.

6. Collaboration and help in completing tasks should be always encouraged.

7. If an ‘outsider’ to the team wants to join DSU, Scrum Master should ensure they will not disrupt the meeting and remind them they can only be present as spectators.

8. Taking turns. Scrum Master needs to ensure that only one person speaks at a time. Best way to do is it by introducing ‘pass the ball’ approach – bring a simple object that would act as a speaking token.

9. Scrum Master needs to make sure all team members listen to each other. No phone use allowed, no leaving room, no early leavers.

10. If team is tired and unmotivated – move meeting to another time, when everyone will feel more energized and focused.

What NOT to do

Many teams think DSU’s are a waste of time – which is usually a result of them being run poorly. Common reasons why team would feel that way, are:

  • They are too long, because team members lack focus, can’t stay on topic, discuss unimportant matters, engage into small talk … It is Scrum Master’s job to keep them motivated, focused and he should interrupt them when the topic gets off track.
  • DSU is not a problem-solving meeting. Problems should be tackled after the meeting.
  • Wrong timing. Make sure everyone agrees on what time should DSU’s take place. Take in consideration time difference in case you are working with remote teams.
  • Non relevant information. Avoid topics that concern only one or two members and not the whole team. Focus on meaningful work.
  • Introverted team members. DSU’s can be uncomfortable for introverts as they might find it difficult to speak in front of others or, even worse, feel embarrassed about voicing impediments and raise blockers, which can lead to disaster. In this case Scrum Master should encourage, help team members to get to know each other, support collaboration. This might help introverts feel more comfortable.
  • Skipping DSUs.