Many software development teams have heard of agile, scrum, and daily stand-ups. Many teams looking to become more agile implement stand-ups but almost as many get into trouble with them. Common issues I’ve encountered are:
- Running too long (should be 15 minutes)
- Veering off course (should be hyper-focused on user stories at hand)
- Getting into deep technical discussions
Sometimes these can be problematic and in the worst case, people slowly stop coming and the team abandons the stand-up entirely. But this is a mistake. The stand-up is a critical piece of the already-minimal Scrum framework.
A good way to re-phrase the questions that each team member asks are:
- What did you accomplish toward the sprint goal yesterday?
- What do you plan to accomplish toward the sprint goal today?
- What is stopping or slowing you from meeting the sprint goal?
By focusing on the sprint goal, it helps contain off-topic discussions. And by focusing on accomplishments, you are reinforcing that the standup is not a status check-in meeting but rather a confirmation that everyone is moving toward the goal. (You DO have a goal outlined for each sprint, right?) It’s also appropriate to use the stand-up for team coordination, but any discussion over 60 seconds should be taken offline.
It’s perfectly okay for a team member to say “I didn’t accomplish anything because a production issue came up and I spent all day fixing it,” or “I didn’t accomplish anything because we underestimated this story and it’s taking longer than expected.” While neither situation is ideal, at least the ScrumMaster will have a clear sense of the team’s current state and can act accordingly.
It’s still incumbent upon the ScrumMaster to step in as soon as he detects the conversation going off-track from the 3 questions above, and to timebox the meeting to 15 minutes (I advocate for a hard cutoff at 15 minutes even if not everyone has had their say).
Over time the team learns how to successfully navigate the stand-up and the benefits quickly outweigh any initial stress.