Standup RemediationAug 12, 2015 5 minute read
Standups1 are short daily meetings conducted in Agile teams. 2 They are usually conducted first time in the morning. During standups, all team members take turns briefing their peers answering three key questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What is your plan for today?
- Do you have any impediments?
Standups give the team a good idea on how much progress is being made towards the goals of the Sprint. They help to start the day with an upbeat tone. During standups, user stories at risk get diagnosed quickly. When caught early, these stories can usually be remediated by adding or changing resources. Daily standups are truly an invaluable resource for the team to reach its goals.
Effective Standup Requirements
- Stand up. As the name implies, standup meetings should be conducted standing up. It adds some minor discomfort to keep the meetings short.
- Short. Standup meetings should be short. Participants tend to lose focus on long meetings. Updates should be given in a concise way.
- Everybody participates. Every team member should provide his or her update. Practice makes the master, useful and concise updates are no exception.
- Engaging. Interactive meetings are more productive. [citation_needed] Team members should feel the updates are directly related to them.
Standups are supposed to start the day with a high note. More often than not, they become boring and dull meetings that drag team members through half an hour of useless updates about irrelevant minutiae. Some managers -who think these meetings are for their sole consumption- take poignant positions demanding updates from team members. For these and several other reasons, many teams dread daily standups. The following characters are typical in dysfunctional standups.
Endless Updaters Talk about every single little thing done the day before. It is not uncommon for them to mention: Visual Studio updates, Windows updates, meetings, and repository clones. They make a big deal out of every small detail. Their updates can take a few minutes.
Remote Attendees Always have trouble listening to other participants. They are usually driving to work and the background noise from the highway hinders the communication for everybody else. Remote attendees rarely know how to mute their phones.
Quiet Speakers Speak very softly. They are the archenemies of the Remote Attendees. Even people in the same room have a hard time hearing their update.
Blank Starers Although physically present, their mind wanders through magical imaginary worlds. These meetings don’t concern them at all. They usually give their update and return to their daydreaming bubble. Blank Starers are blood-related to Pathological Texters.
Pathological Texters Cannot stop fiddling with their phones while other team members talk. They predate other meetings and common spaces such as team lunches.
Late Attendees Always arrive exactly two minutes late. They distract the team trying to find a spot to stand. These individuals are almost never on time to their other meetings.
Micro Managers Have a mistaken idea the meeting is for them. These individuals inquisitively question attendees. They block the meeting’s progress until they feel satisfied. It is never an issue for them to ask very detailed technical questions that don’t concern the rest of the team.
Dysfunctional standups can certainly be remediated. Agile teams can readjust themselves to extract the full value out of their daily standups. The following are several techniques aimed to solve dysfunctional standup issues.
Communication Champion Effective standups are generally conducted by a communication champion. Sometimes, this communication champion is the Scrum Master. This individual will keep people engaged and motivated. A good meeting leader will prevent and remediate the majority of the standup dysfunctions. Moreover, effective motivators will spread an upbeat mindset through the team. The presence of a good leader is a requirement for effective standups, at least until the team reaches the necessary maturity.
Preparation Request team members to think about their updates beforehand. Ask them to answer the three standup key questions in a task oriented way. For example: yesterday, I finished the database migration task; today, I will focus on the website deployment task; I’m still waiting for the Infrastructure Department to provide deployment credentials.
Punctuality Repeatedly inform team members that standups should start on time at a specific hour. Reschedule, when the majority of the team arrives late. Gather feedback from the team on more convenient times.
Brevity Encourage people to speak out loud. Call out diversions. Request detailed topics to be discussed offline. Abort discussions. Request them to be deferred until the meeting ends. Explicitly ban electronics and chairs. Publicly call out trespassers. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Regroup As a general rule, if standups feel too long they probably are. Reconsider team size when meetings are repeatedly too long, or the majority of attendees feel distracted. A boring standup for a big team can potentially become two interesting meetings for two smaller teams. Large teams that maintain their Task Board updated could skip the “What did you do yesterday” question altogether. Skipping a question saves at least a third of the time.
Daily standup meetings are invaluable resources to track the progress of the team towards its goals. When used incorrectly they lose their purpose and can reduce productivity. Several measures can be put in place to remediate common standup dysfunctions.
To learn more about standups go to It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings ↩