The daily stand-up is the dynamo that powers agile: here are some ideas to make it work even better.

By Jaco Viljoen

The classic daily stand-up meeting, or daily scrum, takes place every working day at the same time. The lack of seating is designed to keep things short and to the point. The idea is that team members make commitments to each other about what they will achieve that day, the team is alerted to potential challenges—and solutions can be sought.

 

These short, daily meetings play a vital role in creating the forward momentum and team dynamic that makes Agile so effective. Over the years, I have come up with some variations that work well in enhancing their effectiveness:

Frame questions in terms of completion rather than accomplishment. The typical stand-up questions are, “What did I accomplish yesterday?”, “What will I accomplish today?” and “What are the impediments?”

I find it’s even more useful to reframe the first two questions as, “What did I complete yesterday?” and “What will I complete today?” This makes people focus on the various steps that have to be taken in order to get a task finished. A task isn’t just done or not done: it becomes work in progress and then moves into testing or peer review and then is done. The rephrased questions focus the team on a much more granular sense of each task’s progress through to genuine completion. This is especially important given Agile’s aim of integrating quality management into the development process, not leaving it to the end.

Relate everything back to the project goals. In the original planning session for the sprint, each task is linked to a goal. I have found that relating each task back to the original goal during the stand-up is a great way of keeping everything and everyone aligned. This is a great way to keep everybody on the same page, and makes it easy to identify scope creep.

Make it visual. While there are many online tools to use, I find it valuable to use a physical task board which acts as a visual storyline, showing each goal and its associated tasks. It’s important to go up to the board and point to the task while talking about it. Using red Post-Its to show impediments is also a great visual cue to prompt discussion about what can be done.

The task board also provides a good way for team members to identify what they could be doing while a particular task is held up.

In conclusion, a quick word about implementing these tweaks. I have found that teams tend to mimic each other, so as scrum master, if I rephrase the questions, start relating everything I do back to the original goals, and point to the task board when talking, it soon becomes second nature for everyone.

These are simple techniques, but their effects are significant. Use them to make your daily stand-ups even more effective.