4 ways to boost your Scrum team’s daily stand-up meetings

With agile project management and Scrum being enormously popular these days, many teams now conduct daily stand-up meetings. (There are probably a large number of people in the world that are in a daily right now :)).

The concept of the “daily” is simple: by meeting for five to ten minutes every morning, traditionally while standing, you and your team can sync and troubleshoot any impediments to completing your work.

But conducting a daily in an effective and productive way is actually not that easy. (We’re all human, after all.) It’s worth investing a bit of time and energy into getting the most out of your dailies. Since this is a meeting that happens every day, it can have an enormous impact on your goals, even in an indirect way.

Here are 4 practices that can help you get a lot more from your daily meetings:

1. Communicate progress and deadlines in a clear way

Anyone that practices Scrum is familiar with the the following format for a daily meeting:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What am I planning to do today?
  • Is there anything holding me back?
  • scrum daily standup meeting

    While this format is great and helps to keep the meeting short and focused, I sometimes find myself hearing the same updates, day after day. For instance: “I’m continuing to work on the integration with an external service to our product.”

    These kinds of updates usually indicate that the task wasn’t broken down into small enough pieces. (Or alternatively, someone took many small tasks and combined them into one big task.)

    To encourage people to execute their tasks in a more agile way, your daily updates should have a clear scope and deadline — preferably, as tight as possible. For example, “Yesterday I completed the authentication to the external API and today I’m going to complete the first information request from it.”

    That way, it’s clear what progress has been made and what the actual goals are for the day; goals that will actually tell the team if they are on track or not, each and every day.

    2. Use your dailies to solve process issues and build healthy habits

    Since the daily standup happens every day, it can serve as a powerful way to build healthy habits and establish a rhythm for your team.

    Our team faced the problem that most of the iteration’s tasks were usually completed at the end of the iteration. Meaning, rather than making steady progress throughout the iteration, we were waiting until the last minute to rush to complete everything all at once.

    So we decided to create a daily burndown graph that shows how many tasks have been started (as indicated by the orange) and how many have been completed (as indicated by the green.)

    Moving forward, we started going over the graph during our dailies to check:

  • Are we making constant progress? (Ideally, the slope of the burndown should be 45 degrees.)
  • How many new tasks did we start today as a team? (We wanted to make sure that each team member has only one or two tasks at any given moment.)
  • iteration board

    3. Use a visual Scrum board to update in-context and hold everyone accountable

    Having everyone engaged and actively participate in the daily meeting can be challenging — some team members are drawn to their computers, others to their phones, and so on. I think that the key way to make everyone engaged is to have a shared iteration board visible to everyone and to define a clear, repeatable process for daily updates.

    During the daily itself, people should update on concrete stories/tasks in the board, rather than speaking off the top of their head. This makes the update a lot more focused and allows others to understand the update in context of the relevant task.

    When people understand it’s expected from them to go over their tasks during the daily, it makes them care about their task’s clarity and definition of “done.” Also, it motivates them to update the board constantly and come more prepared for the daily.

    4. Take it “offline” – Keep your dailies short

    The daily meeting is for the team to sync on progress and raise flags about problems. It should be kept short and concise; otherwise, people tend to lose attention.

    Don’t solve problems or deep dive into discussions during the daily. Rather, when an issue or more in-depth question raises, just coordinate who should take it offline, after the daily.

    As a productivity hack, we address all the issues that were raised during the daily immediately after, in the relevant forum. That way, only the most relevant people deal with it, while others can continue with their day.

    To sum it up: an effective daily can help your team to be more productive, more effective, and ultimately, more impactful.

    Top image credit: Jon Candy