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Stand-Up or Status Report?

This is a Team Touch Point, Not a Report Card

Keep your team stand-up from becoming a Status Report meeting and not what it is intended to be, a quick chat by members of the team to update each other on what they have done, what they are working on/planning to work on that day and any issues that they are facing. It is capped at 15 minutes and we all stand-up to help make sure it does not get too long and become an actual “meeting.” A stand-up done daily and well can actually reduce “status drive-byes” by product owners and those that “need to know” by allowing them to listen in to what the team is doing without needing to schedule a meeting or interrupting the team during their work time to get that information.

Why Stand-ups?

Stand-ups, also called a Daily Scrum Meeting, are the most useful and most abused of all the Agile artifacts. In many cases, the Product Owner, the Scrum Master or even team members turn it into a mini-meeting with checklists, agendas, note-book and work assignments. That is not what this time it is for. The true value of stand-up is about your team members talk TO each other, not to the Scrum Master or Product Owner. This time is for them to update, inform and share what they have worked on, what they have in-progress as well as share any issues that are facing them that may affect other members of the team. It is amazing how much information you can share with others when you learn to keep it short and focused.

Use this time to encourage your team to “talk” not “report.” This is harder than it sounds. As a Scrum Master or Product Owner, I recommend that you not start the Stand-up conversation, guide members of your team to get engaged and own this time by interacting with each other (not you) and sharing what they are working on. It is for their use – it needs to be encouraged and it may take some time for them adopt and engage in this process.

standup

15 Minutes of focused conversation

What to Do

One of the hardest parts about getting Stand-ups started is finding the right time to have it! Once you have found that time, make it happen.

  • Keep it Short – 15 minutes and no more to keep it from going astray.
  • Every Day, Same Time, Same Place – Schedule the stand-up for every work day at the same time and in the same place to encourage attendance to become a habit. Do not move locations or times if you can avoid it!
  • Respect the Stand-up – Do your best to respect the timing of the stand-up by showing up on time (as well as the stand-ups of other teams) and not scheduling another meeting over it unless it is necessary.
  • What to talk about – There are 3 basic items that you cover in the stand-up:
    • What you did yesterday?
    • What are you doing today?
    • What issues are affecting you or your current work?
  • What else? – There are a few other things that can add value to this meeting such as sharing lessons learned since the team shares work environments, tools and code. It can be very valuable to share things that were reworked, improved or learned while working in the code to help your team when they next interact with them.
  • Invite listeners – (AKA Chickens) Other members of the project team may need information about what is being done so invite them to listen in but remember, if they are not doing the work, they are not part of the stand-up conversation. They are there to listen.

What Not to Do

As a Scrum Master or Product Owner, it is easy to allow it to degrade into a status meeting where you are checking off a list, digging into details, and the team members start talking to you not each other. There are other meetings that are for that purpose, and this is not one of them. Do not let the meeting become a report card session. There are a number of things you can do to avoid this:

  • Stand in the middle – As a scrum master, I often purposefully stay back from the group especially in the early stages when I want the team to learn to discuss things with each other. They want to tell the Scrum Master what they are doing, not each other.
  • Don’t look them in the eye – This is a very simple trick but VERY useful. Individuals SO want to tell the person that seems in charge the details, so don’t meet their eyes and they will look be more inclined to interact with their fellow team members. I often look at the floor to help them change this behavior. It feels odd at first but does work!
  • Bring a notebook or computer – We all want to takes notes about the important stuff for discussion and tracking but bringing a notebook and/or computer to the stand-up is the first slippery step toward turning it into a meeting.
  • Write checklists, agendas or to-do lists – There are times that you want to make sure you mention things, keep it short, post-it note short. A list in a notebook makes it more of a check-list or agenda than something you do not want to forget to mention.
  • Dive down rabbit holes – It is SO easy for stand-up comments and updates to dive into the depths of details that are not meant for most of the folks at the stand-up. To help head these off, we just call “rabbit hole” which reminds folks it is getting to detailed and to take it “offline” and follow-up after stand-up with the right folks.
  • Allow Listener take-overs – Do not let listeners who attend stand-up take over the team’s stand-up time by asking lots of questions. If they hear something they want a more time or detail on, tell them to “ask for 5” after the stand-up to follow-up without derailing the team’s time. It allows them to get info when the team members are not engaged in work and prevents a future “drive-by” status report later in the day.

References:

Below are a few references to help you refine your Stand-ups and make them more effective:

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