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What’s Up with Stand-Up? Five Common Mistakes in the Daily Stand-Up

Scrum can be described as a series of “inspect and adapt” cycles designed to ensure continuous improvement of the product, the stories in the current sprint and the team. The purpose of the daily scrum or daily stand-up is inspecting and adapting for the sake of what’s in the current sprint plan.

Unfortunately – it’s easy for a new team to allow stand-up to degrade into yet another long, unproductive meeting that misses the mark. Five common mistakes in daily stand-up are:

  1. Allowing daily stand-up to become a simple status reporting meeting. Having each scrum team member simply report out their current status misses a valuable opportunity to make sure the team is tracking on delivering this sprint’s committed stories. If issues have emerged and delivery of all committed stories is at risk – stand-up provides the forum to raise the issue while there is still time in the sprint to act. Each team member in the daily stand-up should answer 3 questions:
    • What have I accomplished in the last 24 hours?
    • What am I committing to accomplish in the next 24 hours?
    • Are there any impediments, obstacles, dependencies or risks that the team needs to know about?
  2. Allowing daily stand-up to become a management meeting. Stand-up is run by the team, for the benefit of the team. No one takes notes, sends email updates or follows up on action items from
    yesterday. If you want to know how the team is doing – come to stand-up and listen in.
  3. Allowing daily stand-up to exceed its 15-minute time box. When a team gels, it’s easy for stand-up to become a time hog that eats up far too much time. The group is more than willing to wait for the chronically late team member who just ran to get a cup of coffee. No rabbit hole, tangent or idea is out-of-bounds. Keep your daily stand-up on a strict diet of 15 minutes – starting promptly at the appointed time, timed for 15 minutes. You may even need to time each team member. It’s amazing how efficiently the 3 stand-up questions can be answered when you only have 90 seconds or 2 minutes!
  4. Allowing daily stand-up to become a problem-solving meeting. As team members raise impediments and obstacles in stand-up, it becomes easy for the meeting to become a discussion for debugging, problem solving and managing risk. Wave good-bye to your 15-minute time box! The purpose of stand-up is to raise these issues so that the entire team is aware of them, not to immediately solve them. A good rule of thumb is that if someone has a solution for a problem that can be expressed in 15 seconds or less – say it now (in stand-up). If not – have the discussion with the interested parties AFTER stand-up is over.
  5. Allowing daily stand-up to become a forum for stakeholders to drop new requirements in the plan. While stakeholders are welcome (and encouraged) to attend daily stand-up, their presence is meant to allow updates to flow TO them from the team, rather than have requirements, changes or plans flow FROM them to the team.

The ScrumMaster typically facilitates the daily stand-up. By encouraging the team to avoid these pitfalls, stand-up will provide the intended value to the team – a daily inspect & adapt moment for the value of the work in development.

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