Please raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself in a boring status meeting.
A manager with a task list at hand checks the general progress. All participants (usually in turn) will give a status update and then the deliberations begin: 5 minutes talking, 15 minutes talking, 30 minutes talking and the list goes on. In general, after 15 minutes, the average person’s mind starts wandering.
Instead, Agile has the infamous “Daily Standup Meeting” (aka “Daily Scrum”). (Tweet This)
What is a Daily Standup Meeting?
Well, a Daily Standup meeting is exactly what the word suggests: A daily meeting where everybody is literally standing! Of course it involves much more than that. Although you may find a lot of definitions, the one I like best comes from an older book of James Shore & Shane Warden (The Art of Agile Development):
“… At a pre-set time every day, the whole team stands in a circle. One at a time, each person briefly describes new information that the team should know…”
A Daily Standup is more of a daily coordination rather than a status meeting.
It is a time-boxed event for the team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours. This is done by inspecting the work since the last meeting and forecasting the work that could be done before the next one. (Ref.)
If well-run, it provides significant value to teams. That makes it quite popular among many teams in agile software development.
Daily Standups have their take of criticism, the most important being that they are a waste of time. Some of these comments are valid and I think it is good to keep them in the back of our minds.
- Daily Standups interrupt the day. Especially if they are held in the morning. There are members that will wait for the standup to end in order to begin work.
- Daily Standups reduce productivity because they’re a context switch. Everybody on the team has to stop what they are doing to attend. Still, this is the case for practically everything that takes place in a working environment.
- People delay necessary communication until the next standup. Try not to drop team communication in favor of the daily meeting. Talk to someone when you have to.
- There is a guy that talks all the time. The solution is quite simple. You may set a maximum time limit, so everyone will have its share.
- Being brief has its own issues. Repeated reports of “nothing new” or “nothing to report” may in fact be indicating that something else is happening to the person or the team. This is where some elaboration has to take place.
- E.T.A. (Estimated Time of Arrival). Some people will turn in for work during or even after the meeting. Just start the meeting. If I were late I would feel bad the next time.
- I do not like to standup. Yes me neither!
Setting it up
The most common setup is:
- A pre-set time every day. Daily Scrums only require fixed time and place. Which time and place is up to the team to decide. It is an opportunity to inspect and adapt, a meeting in which the team plans their day.
- Keep a time-box of 15 minutes. The purpose of the standup is to give an idea of where the team is. So 15 minutes is OK. Smaller teams may even need less than that.
- Standing up. It helps keeping the meeting short, but Daily Scrum does not oblige you to do it standing up.
- Every member of the team “answers” three questions:
– What did I do yesterday?
– What am I doing today?
– What blocking issues I have that I need help from the team?
- If detailed discussions come up (or to adapt, or replan, the rest of the Sprint’s work) , it is a good practice to take them offline immediately after the meeting.
How we do it:
The process we follow at Blendo is the following:
- One set daily meeting (we call it sync meeting), within 30 minutes of arrival.
- 15 minutes timeboxed duration. 15 minutes is usually too long for us (we are a team of three), so we tend to close it sooner.
- We do not standup.
- We speak in turns.
- We keep our Kanban board close so we have a view of the tasks we are talking about.
- We keep our updates in the form of: What I did, what I plan to do, what is blocking me.
- Any follow-up conversations take place after the meeting.
NOTE [Updated]: I recently found out Geekbot. Geekbot is an app for asynchronous standup meetings inside Slack. Yep Slack… We are trying it for some time now. Although it cannot replace actual face to face time, it is a great tool for teams that are not always in sync for their standup or they are in different time zones. Give it a try (they are cool ppl too).
Ideas of daily meeting setups
A lot of people and companies try to optimize their process and plan better ways to have a daily meeting.
- Daily Standup meetings over email: http://wellbredgrapefruit.com/blog/2013/05/28/daily-meetings-are-great-but-you-should-never-have-them/
- The Treehouse way with their internal tool: http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/a-better-way-to-do-daily-standup-meetings
- Ways to play Scrum from Gunther Verheyen: http://guntherverheyen.com/2013/01/17/ways-to-play-scrum/
Make sure the Daily Standup is worth of your time. Think of it as the catalyst to facilitate the work that the team is doing. Do you have Daily Standups? Do you think they worth the trouble?
Interesting Links to read & references:
I love technology and working with people. That is why I am trying to offer as much as I can at the local startup ecosystem and at the same time building Blendo. A a platform to help you create a Single Source of Truth for your data by bring together data across multiple SaaS tools!
I am co-organizer of the Agile Greece and API Athens meetups and I contribute at the Developer Economics Blog.