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The Daily Stand-up

For a while now I've been writing the odd blog article which purely focuses on a specific agile item, like my unfathomably popular - The Information Radiator 

The daily stand-up is probably without doubt the most famous of all the ceremonies - In fact I've come across companies who only practice the daily-stand up and believe their already doing agile!

My Scrum Team

The stand-up or huddle is usually performed daily, where possible first thing and conventionally each member of the team answers three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday (or last business day, you always get some witty person who on a Monday relays what he did on Sunday....... admittedly I've done that!)
  • What do I intend to do today
  • What impediments or blockers do I have 

What are the goals of the stand-up:

  • A short concise, daily meeting, time-boxed to 15mins max - shorter with a small team.
  • To create a good focused start to the day
  • To update status to the team and to clients, project manners and stakeholders who wish to attend - However remember the standup is NOT a status meeting, it's a planning meeting!
  • To make visible any impediments or blockers and to assign them.

Who attends:

  • Ideally every one, certainly the Scrum team but also including customers/stake holders/client

Are your a chicken or a pig?

www.implementingscrum.com -- Cartoon -- September 11, 2006 - Scrum - This is the classic story of the Pig and Chicken metaphor in an Agile Software Development Project Management Technique

The Scrum team are the pigs! the clients and other stakeholders are chickens! (worth pointing out at this point... I've been Scrum master to a few off-shore teams and for certain religious/cultural reasons best not to refer to them as pigs!) or the business as chickens for that matter!!

What does this mean? Scrums afford a special status to those who are fully committed!
The pigs are there to answer the three questions.... The chickens are there to listen - unless specifically asked a question and a few other exceptions they stay quiet and observe!! The stand-up is only one of the ceremonies where this difference is important and I'll cover those is more details in a future blog - but for now - it's the Scrum team who are committed to the project, everybody else is involved! This distinction gets even more important when it comes to estimating. 

I was involved with a really good discussion in the "Certified Scrum Master Group" on LinkedIn a week or so ago all about the stand-up and ways to keep it relevant and interesting!

I'm not sure there's any magic answers to this.... but these are some of the things I do

  • Alternate the sequence you go round the team... perhaps use a ball that people throw around - randomly! whatever you do, mix it up, stand in different places, etc, etc
  • Keeping with the ball theme - a ball also makes an excellent token... only the person with the token is allowed to speak
  • Using an egg timer - every-team has somebody who loves to talk and you just can't shut them up!! I'll admit I can be guilty of this!! Using an egg timer is a brilliant way to keep it concise.... However having two egg timers is a good idea.. Due to a fundamental design error with the egg-timer - it doesn't have a reset capacity!! having two egg timers and alternating means everybody gets their full allowance of sand!!
  • Conduct the Stand-up around the project board, talk about the board and stories - make it real and physical not abstract! 
  • I always have a blockers column on my board..... any blockers brought up by the team goes on the board and are assigned.... the next day we go through the list and explain why the blockers are still there. This gives feed back to the Scrum team and ensures that myself as Scrum master or other parties are resolving issues allowing developers to do what they do best... Develop! (I said developers - but the Scrum team is made up of the delivery team not just developers)
  • If the stand-up isn't working for you the retrospective is the time to talk about it and let the team suggest ways to improve it.... Scrums should be self organising and the team collectively feeds back into the retrospective with their views, opinions and suggestions!

When observing a well run Stand-up you shouldn't immediately be able to recognise the Scrum Master! If everybody is answering their questions to the SM - it's probably not working well - the feedback is intended for the entire team not just the SM 

If people are attending the Stand-up late.. there's probably issues! if the team are awaiting instruction from the Scrum Master... it's not working! .

Remember as a Scrum Master one of your responsibilities is to coach the team in the way of agile.

As with all things Agile - it's trial and error... start of by following the guidelines - but don't be afraid to change them! Whilst I usually start with new teams with the famous 3 questions as the team matures and grows confident I often move away from this and allow it to become a planning meeting! I sometimes create a day goal... Something for the team to focus around! 

However start of with the principles first, understand them so they feel familiar and then change as you understand the repercussions - think Shu Ha Ri!! But I'll write a whole other blog about that another day.

And finally good luck with your Stand-ups! Keep them interesting, keep them relevant and make them exciting!! I always wake up to Radio 4 in the morning... in my mind Radio 4 sets the news agenda for the day... Your daily Stand-up should set the work agenda for the day!  

Written by Christian Miles

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