Are You Getting Value From Stand Ups?

By | December 18, 2014

I’ve been attending stand ups for the better part of 10 years. I’ve been to some good ones, some bad ones and some really bad ones. More recently, I’ve been helping the teams I work with now, to get more value from them. We encouraged ourselves to think about what we want from our stand ups. Here are some of the questions we asked.

What are stand ups?

Stand ups are that vital touch point with the rest of the team. Stand ups are short, face to face, verbal ‘meet ups’, where knowledge and information can be transferred between team members.

What do we talk about?

What did I do yesterday? What am I doing today? Am I blocked?

These are the three standard questions asked and answered by people at a stand up. They are a great starting point and they do convey some information that other people may find useful, but as a team evolves, are these questions still relevant? Is what you did yesterday really valuable to the other members of your team? Doesn’t your whiteboard show what you are working on and the progress you’ve made? The person you’ve been pairing with will certainly know what you did yesterday. The knowledge and information you want to convey each day will likely change, and context is key.

When do we hold them?

Co-location is ideal, but in recent times, remote working and globally distributed teams have become more and more common. First thing in the morning could be a good time? For us that means we’ve all got coffee and everyone we are expecting at the stand up, is available. This will usually be at 10am in London. However, if we had team members based in New York too, it may be more appropriate to hold it at 3pm.

Who attends?

The scrum guide states the following about the ‘Daily Scrum': “The Scrum Master enforces the rule that only Development Team members participate in the Daily Scrum.” A good rule of thumb might be that the people that need to be there to affect change, are the people that should attend. For the most part, this will be the development team, but in practice it may be prudent to bring others in as needed.

Are there any common problems?

  • We have stand ups, so we don’t communicate between stand ups
  • There are 50 people at our stand up (or more than is required to affect change)
  • Our stand up takes 3 hours (or more than 15 minutes)

If these problems sound familiar, perhaps it’s time to assess the value that your stand ups are delivering?

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