Revisiting the basics - Why we do daily stand ups…

28 September 2017

Revisiting the basics - Why we do daily stand ups…

Our development teams have been practicing Scrum for well over a couple of years.  It appears the scrum team and myself included, are currently going through a stage where our daily stand up meetings are nothing more than:

I done A yesterday, I am doing A today and maybe B today and there is nothing stopping or impeding me.

I hope other scrum teams also go through this at some point (otherwise I suck as a scrum master).  

With the aim of improving and changing the daily stand ups, I write this article to help me re-visit why the Scrum guide says we should do daily stand ups and what benefit they should add.

Please note, we refer to daily scrum meetings as daily stand-ups, so from this point on, I will refer to the meeting as a daily stand-up.

Why do daily stand-ups?

The scrum guide defines the daily stand up as:

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours. This is done by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting the work that could be done before the next one.

 This alone is enough to give a high level overview of what a daily stand-up is, but only touches on why: inspecting and forecasting work. So why do we attend and commit to this ceremony? To help my understand of why, I will first look at what the outcomes of this ceremony are.  Within my teams they are:

  •          Communicate how team members are working to complete the sprint goal.
  •          Identify blockers.
  •          Share knowledge around the team.
  •          Break out session, where details discussed in the stand-up are expanded upon and if needed changed/enhanced (optional).

These three key points can easily be linked back to the three pillars of scrum (based on the empirical control theory):

  1.        Transparency – The presenting of facts as is. The team accomplish this by providing their update on how they intend to accomplish the goal of the sprint (i.e. what was accomplished yesterday and what is planned for today) and also by identifying impediments.
  2.        Inspection – The act of looking at something carefully to check that everything is correct.  The team listens and has the opportunity to inspect what other team members are working on or planning to work on.
  3.        Adaptation - Adaptation in this context is about continuous improvement, the ability to adapt based on the results of the inspection. The break session is the key area where the team has the option to adapt their current plans.

Given the above, one key reason for why we continue to have daily scrum meetings is too provide the team with the opportunity to inspect and adapt.  This would give the team the opportunity to inspect, and adapt the current process to gain improvements. 

What can I do to help improve the daily stand-up?

If like me and you have a scrum team who are going through the motions.  Then these are some practices which I would suggest.

  •          Re-iterate why we are doing the stand-ups.  These meetings are your opportunity to share your knowledge with the team and identify areas where we can improve.  The meeting also provides an opportunity for you as a team member to update the team on what you think needs to be done to help complete the sprint goal.
  •          Let the development team members and not the scrum master lead the daily stand-up.  This will help the team take ownership of the meetings and help build a trust and safe environment.
  •          Ensure every update given by the team is valuable to everyone in the team, not just the project owner/scrum master.
  •          Moving any long running updated to the break out session (15 minutes session following the daily stand-up).
  •          Walk the sprint board.  This can help identify what was needs to be done by the team.  As you navigate through the sprint board items, allow your teams members to give an update on each item.

References:

 Agile  SCRUM