Focused Stand-Ups – Constructive Daily Meetings

Once a team has completed all their planning, they will then start collaborating to complete user stories and meet the goal set. The daily scrum should be a short meeting where all members get together and should give responses to 3 simple questions:

  • What did you do since the last meeting?
  • What will you be doing today?
  • Anything blocking your progress?

It sounds simple, but it is quite common for these 15 minute meetings to last up to 40-45 minutes with conversations based on what team members may have said during their responses, this can become more difficult with distributed team members as they may see this as a time when they can have a chat with the other team members about their work. The best thing for them to do here is mention that they require a chat with some team members after the meeting.

The most important elements of these meetings are the three questions and it is important that everyones responses have value to the rest of the team. It is very easy for someone to come into the meeting and say:

Yesterday I did …, today I will do …. and I have no blockers!

The important fact to remember about the daily stand up is not purely a status meeting but is a chance for the team to meet and find ways to help keep the team making progress. Before the meeting, it is good that all members think about how their work impacts all other team members or identify who may be able to help them resolve issues.

A better update would be:

Yesterday, I started doing …. and while doing this I discovered this issue that will possibly affect A & B, today I will look into ways to get around this issue and may need to call on Bob to help me if I become blocked as I believe he has come across something similar before. This constraint has the potential to block me if I can’t get round it.

Priorities for the team will be changing all the time and part of the purpose of the daily meeting is for the team to sync up and re-evaluate the priorities which will come out from each individuals updates. The scrum master may then feel the need to think about shuffling the priorities and suggesting moving people around to help with tasks that are becoming issues or taking longer than needed.

Giving details of what you are intending to achieve in the time between the current meeting and the next is a way of the team members committing to the team and providing the chance to gain the team members trust by following through on their commitments when they meet the following day.

It is important that the team is progressing, there may be tasks where the estimates are expanding and discovered work is appearing, this would be a good chance for the the scrum master to question team members whos work is not helping the progress, there may be issues they have not felt comfortable divulging in the meeting, they may just be struggling and feel that they are letting the team down or they may be distracted by outside influences, this way the Scrum Master can then find ways to resolve any issues by putting extra people on the tasks or eliminating any distractions.

Working with distributed teams will bring additional issues that will need communicating, remote team members work will not be as visible to the scrum master and other local members, it is therefore paramount that the remote members are able to communicate in great detail about their work and any issues they may be having. All teams will have different ways of communicating remotely with team members but it is important that whichever communication method is used (whether it email, phone, IM or video-conferencing), it is of the highest priority that all members feel comfortable and part of the team, that way they will feel comfortable discussing their work and any blockers they may be having.

These daily meetings should be completed within 15 minutes for a team, it is therefore highly important that side conversations do not occur while the meeting is in progress, any additional conversations should be taken offline after the meeting.

These meetings are a sure fire way of keeping the team focussed and all aiming for the same goal if they are used effectively and all members use the platform to be open and honest about the tasks they are currently trying to complete. If they are used effectively, the team burn down will show that the team are making great progress.

One thought on “Focused Stand-Ups – Constructive Daily Meetings

  1. I would like to add a comment about the preparations before start of the sprint. When not done right you may end up with a lot of discussion during the standups.

    – creating user stories: the productowner should be aware that large incomplete stories do not help the scrum process
    – poker session: time to discuss implementation and architecture of stories. When this is done in a hurry you will end up arguing in the standup.
    – planning session (for a sprint): another possibility to re-check the stories and how they relate to eachother

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