The Single Biggest Standup Mistake

We all do them, Daily Standups are the quintessential activity of a Scrum Team. Each morning the group gathers, discusses what they did yesterday, and what they plan to do today. The tone is monotone and everyone sips away at their thick treacle-like coffee in an attempt to remain upright while a few of the younger developers attempt to conceal hangovers which would force anyone of your advancing years to cower under a desk.

For me the daily stand up is one of the easiest Scrum practices to implement and therefore is often forced upon a team so they can claim that they’re “agile”.

As with many Scrum components the value is not in the compulsory attendance but in the enlightenment when a member of team suddenly has a lightbulb moment and understands why a practice is of use to them.

For me that moment came when I realised that the Yesterday and Today section of a Team Member’s speech is simply window dressing. It’s interesting certainly, it may even help the Team Lead or Scrum Master measure burndown but the real value of a Daily Standup is in the often neglected Impediments section.

During our working day we encounter and resolve countless impediments, those which prove to be more troublesome are raised in the standup where (more often than not) time pressed colleagues mutter a few words of advice or encouragement before wandering back to their own tasks.

This way of raising issues actually dampens the team members’ enthusiasm for “Any Impediments”. After all why should they raise them in scrum when they could simply ask a more experienced colleague quietly, later in the day. I know I wouldn’t want to admit I was struggling to my Team Lead if there was no increased chance of getting help.

So what do I recommend?

I suggest that each Scrum Master take a pen and paper into the standup. As well as facilitating the meeting they need to capture the team’s issues and impediments. At the end of the meeting it is their job to resolve them. More often than not this will involve finding the correct people to lend assistance, be they infrastructure guys, senior developers or management.

The Daily Standup is not a progress meeting. It’s an opportunity for the entire team to come together and check that no one is struggling with an impediment which will impact the team’s ability to deliver at the end of the Sprint.

Remember that a Sprint is not about individual completion, it’s about the team and this is everyone’s opportunity to keep the group on target so they can meet their combined goals.