It's Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings

photo: Karthik Chandrasekarial

Daily stand-up meetings have become a common ritual of many teams, especially in Agile software development. However, there are many subtle details that distinguish effective stand-ups and a waste of time.

29 August 2011

Photo of Jason Yip

Jason Yip is a Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks. He specialises in applying Agile and Lean thinking, principles, and practices to software development and IT operations

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We stand up to keep the meeting short

The daily stand-up meeting (also known as a "daily scrum", a "daily huddle", "morning roll-call", etc.) is simple to describe:

The whole team meets every day for a quick status update. We stand up to keep the meeting short.

That's it.

But this short definition does not really tell you the subtle details that distinguish an effective stand-up from a waste of time.

So how can you tell?

For experienced practitioners, when things go wrong with the stand-up, they will instinctively know what to adjust to fix the situation.

For novices, when things go wrong, it is much less likely that they'll figure out what to do... and it’s much more likely that, given no assistance, they will simply abandon the practice altogether.

This would be unfortunate since well-run stand-ups add significant value to teams.

In order to address this, it is important to make explicit the benefits and consequences of common practices for daily stand-ups. These patterns of daily stand-up meetings can help less experienced practitioners as well as remind more experienced practitioners of the reasons behind their intuition.


What might “good” look like?

Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” starts up... acting like a Pavlovian bell as the team gets up to wander over to stand in front of the card wall without any additional prompting. That particular song is part of a rotation that plays at the same time in the morning, every day. Some people are moving cards to their correct points in the workflow, including affixing different coloured Post-Its with additional notes. A few interested people outside the direct project team have also wandered by to see how things have progressed.

Noticing that the activity at the wall has stopped, the team leader starts a large timer that the team had previously purchased; they were interested in how long the daily stand-up meeting actually took.

One of the team members steps up to talk about the card on the furthest right of the board, closest to the point of deployment. He’s still having some problems with the deployment script. Another team member suggests that she can help resolve that. The sequence continues from right-to-left, top-to-bottom, people describing what is happening with each of the work items, and others chiming in if they can help resolve obstacles. On the side, the team leader is recording the raised obstacles on the improvement board.

At one point, there is a slightly longer discussion exploring how to deal with a particular problem. Noticing the stall, the team leader subtly raises a finger to interrupt... just before one of the people suggest that they should take it offline.

A short time later all the cards are covered and the team leader asks if anyone else has anything else to share. Someone points out an interesting idea she had about a new feature that would make some of what was planned obsolete. This piques the interest of the product manager who always attempts to attend the stand-ups and they both agree to talk about it after.

The team leader then rolls his eyes as the team starts the traditional ending ceremony... 1... 2... 3... Excelsior! Not his thing, but he had to admit, it ended things on a high note.

People separate and start discussing various things that were raised, including the obstacles, the new ideas, and questions about certain work items.


The goals of the daily stand-up are GIFTS

There are several goals for a daily stand-up meeting:

  • To help start the day well
  • To support improvement
  • To reinforce focus on the right things
  • To reinforce the sense of team
  • To communicate what is going on

As a mnemonic device, think of GIFTS:

Good Start, Improvement, Focus, Team, Status

Good Start

Good standups are crisp and motivating. A lot of standups are bad. They have the enervating effect of an hour-plus weekly status meeting, only spread out over a week.

-- Brian Marick, "Latour 3: Anthrax and standups"

Good Start means that the stand-up meeting should give energy, not take it. Energy comes from instilling a sense of purpose and urgency; a clear sense of the purpose and a clear understanding what needs to be done to achieve it. It's important to distinguish this from "false urgency", where people are geared up for activity but are without shared direction.

Improvement

The purpose is not to meet... it is to improve.

-- Joe Ely, "More on Daily Start-Up Meetings"

We can't fix problems we don't know about so a large part of stand-ups is about exposing problems to allow us to improve. Improvement is not just about problem solving though. Sharing better techniques and ideas is also important.

Focus

Focus on the baton, not the runners

It is too easy to confuse effort with work. The stand-up should encourage a focus on moving work through the system in order to achieve our objectives, not encourage pointless activity.

Team

More so than artificial “team-building” exercises, effective teams are built by regularly communicating, working, and helping each other. This is also strongly tied with team members helping each other with shared obstacles. And an effective team is autonomous, otherwise known as self-managing.

The stand-up should be supporting the creation of an environment that encourages people to raise problems by constructing a narrative of other people helping when problems are raised.

Status

Status is about answering a couple questions:

  • How is the work progressing?
  • Is there anything else interesting that the team should know?

There should be other additional mechanisms to answer these questions but the daily stand-up is another opportunity to ensure valuable information doesn’t fall through the cracks.


Patterns of daily stand-up meetings

I’ve organised the patterns to answer the following questions:

  • Who attends?
  • What do we talk about?
  • What order do we talk in?
  • Where and when?
  • How do we keep the energy level up?
  • How do we encourage autonomy?

Who attends?

All Hands

People and representatives from various areas (e.g., marketing, production support, upper management, training, etc.) wish to know about and/or contribute to the status and progress of the project. Communicating status in multiple meetings and reports requires a lot of duplicate effort.

Therefore

Replace some or all of the meetings and reports with the daily stand-up. Anyone who is directly involved in or wants to know about the day-to-day operation of the project should attend the single daily stand-up meeting.

But

People not directly involved can disrupt the stand-up if they are unclear about what is expected behaviour. This may be addressed by simply informing new participants and observers of expected norms beforehand.

Not all forms of reporting will be, nor should be, covered by the stand-up format. For example, overall project progress would be better communicated with a Big Visible Chart such as burn-down, burn-up, cumulative flow diagram, etc.

Work Items Attend

Also Known As: Story-focused stand-up

if the stories are so important to the project, they ought to be the ones speaking in the standup

-- Brian Marick, "Latour 3: Anthrax and standups"

People are too Focused on the Runners, not the Baton. That is, everyone is busy but not necessarily progressing work items.

Therefore

Instead of thinking of the daily stand-up as a ritual for the people, think of it as a ritual where the Work Items Attend (e.g., User Stories in an Agile context) and the people attend only to speak for the work items... since obviously the work items can’t actually talk.

The Yesterday Today Obstacles questions may still be used but will be from the perspective of the work item, rather than the person. This also means that not every person may talk. There is no sense of obligation to say anything that is not relevant to progress the work.

Because of the clearer focus, it is more likely for people to raise, and sign- up to remove, obstacles without prompting.

But

The lack of obligation to speak may hide problems with people who are shy or otherwise not inclined to say anything. This is more difficult to detect with a work-item focus.


What do we talk about?

Yesterday Today Obstacles

Also Known As: Three Questions

Some people are talkative and tend to wander off into Story Telling. Some people want to engage in Problem Solving immediately after hearing a problem. Meetings that take too long tend to have low energy and participants not directly related to a long discussion will tend to be distracted.

Therefore

Structure the contributions using the following format:

  1. What did I accomplish yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. What obstacles are impeding my progress?

These are the minimum number of questions that satisfy the goals of daily stand-ups. Other topics of discussion (e.g., design discussions, gossip, etc.) should be deferred until after the meeting.

Olve Maudal suggested that the questions should be reversed in order to emphasise the correct order of importance:

  1. Any impediments in your way?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. What have you finished since yesterday?

-- Olve Maudal, "Daily Stand-up Meetings - Perhaps the third question should go first?"

Lasse Koskela proposed another form of these questions in order to emphasise that team members should not be Reporting to the Leader:

Each team member updates his peers:

In turn, each team member provides his peers with 3 pieces of information:

  1. Things I have done since yesterday's meeting
  2. Things I am going to get done today
  3. Obstacles that I need someone to remove

-- Lasse Koskela, "On Scrum and the curse of the three questions"

Jonathan Rasmussen offered different wording in order to change the dynamic of the stand-up:

  • What you did to change the world yesterday
  • How you are going to crush it today
  • How you are going to blast through any obstacles unfortunate enough to be standing in your way

Answering these types of questions completely changes the dynamic of the stand-up. Instead of just standing there and giving an update, you are now laying it all the line and declaring your intent to the universe.

-- Jonathan Rasmusson, The Agile Samurai

But

The structure is not as important as the information the answers to the questions provide. If the information is provided in a less structured protocol, it is not important to stick to a checklist. As teams mature, you may find you want to adjust the structure, which is reflective of how this pattern has already evolved.

The larger question is whether Yesterday Today Obstacles is creating too much of a focus on personal commitment versus paying attention to the right things... which leads to Walk the Board.

Improvement Board

Also Known As: Blockage Board, Impediment Board, Kaizen Newspaper

Obstacles raised in the stand-up are not removed or otherwise addressed in a timely fashion.

Therefore

Post raised obstacles to an Improvement Board. This is a publicly visible whiteboard or chart that identifies raised obstacles and tracks the progress of their resolution. An Improvement Board can be updated outside of stand-ups and serves as a more immediate and perhaps less confronting way to initially raise obstacles. A common mistake is to not write large enough to allow people to read the blockages from a distance.

The simple act of writing an issue down and therefore explicitly acknowledging it is a very reliable way to reduce drawn out conversations. So even if not everyone agrees that any particular item is an obstacle, it is worth simply writing it down for discussion after the meeting has ended.

Including an occurrence count with each raised obstacle highlights which issues are generally more important to deal with first.

The board design can vary in a few ways. For example a table structure such as the following:

ProblemCountContainmentCountermeasureStatus
Name of problemOngoing count of occurrencesShort-term solutionLong-term solution based on root cause analysisPlan - Do - Check - Act

Another style is more like a task board:

TodoIn ProgressDone
Index cards representing raised obstaclesObstacle cards move here when we’re actively working on themObstacle cards move here when we’ve resolved them

But

The Improvement Board risks devolving into a whinging board if too many obstacles are raised on it that the team has no influence on resolving.


What order do we talk in?

Last Arrival Speaks First

During a stand-up, attendees need to know who is supposed to speak first. Having the facilitator decide who should speak first is a subtle though definite force against self-organisation. The team should know without intervention who speaks first.

Therefore

Agree that the Last Arrival Speaks First. This is a simple rule that also has the added benefit of encouraging people to be punctual about showing up for the stand-up.

But

The last arrival is also likely to be the person who is least prepared to start off the meeting well.

Round Robin

During a stand-up, attendees need to know who is supposed to speak next. Having a facilitator decide who speaks next is a subtle though definite force against self-organisation. The team should know without intervention who speaks next.

Therefore

Use a simple predetermined rule like a Round Robin to determine who should go next. It doesn't matter if it is clockwise or counter-clockwise. What does matter is that the team runs the meeting, not the facilitator or manager.

Pass the Token

With simple, predictable ordering mechanisms (e.g., Round Robin), it is very easy for participants to ignore other speakers until it is closer to their turn. There may be a tendency to think of other things rather than pay attention to what others are saying.

Therefore

Introduce an unpredictable ordering mechanism, like tossing a speaking token (e.g., a ball) to determine who should speak next. Having a speaking token also simplifies deciding who speaks first as it will be the person who happens to have retrieved the token (or the first person s/he tosses the token to).

Tossing something around introduces a bit of fun to the daily stand-up ritual and thus serves as a good infection mechanism for other observing teams.

I first learned of this pattern on a project I was on with Simon Stewart. We used a small juggling ball but almost anything can be used as token. Other teams have used rugby balls or even plush toys.

But

With larger teams, it may become difficult to remember who has already spoken. In those cases, it may be easier to stick to simpler mechanisms like Round Robin.

Depending on the culture of the organisation or even team, tossing a ball around may also be seen as unprofessional and would create an unnecessary negative perception of the underlying ritual.

Take a Card

During a stand-up, attendees need to know who is supposed to speak first and after that, who is supposed to speak next. Having a facilitator decide who should speak is a subtle though definite force against self-organisation. The team is not keen on Pass the Token because they typically have coffee cups in their hands.

Therefore

Have each team member Take a Card to determine which order to speak. Imagine a stack of cards, each of which has a number on it. As each team member comes to the meeting, they can select a card which then tells them what order to speak in.

Walk the Board

Also Known As: Walk the Wall

[S]tandups keep everyone busy. [W]alking the board keeps everyone focused on the most important things.

-- Bret Pettichord via Twitter

Another issue with the conventional format is that tasks or workstreams aren't discussed coherently; instead, each subject comes up briefly depending on the order in which team members speak. This can make it hard to tell what's really going on.

-- Dave Nicolette, "An alternative format for the daily stand-up"

People are more focused on being busy than actually progressing the work so you switched to a model where Work Items Attend rather than people, however, even with this work item focused stand-up, it is still difficult to understand what is happening when using typical ordering mechanisms like Round Robin or Pass the Token.

Therefore

Walk the Board, that is, structure the stand-up by walking through each work item that is displayed on your visual management board.

Most Agile and Lean teams will use a visual management system to expose what is being worked on. For Agile software development, this might be called a “task board”, “story wall”, or “Kanban board”. These boards will present a process that the work items will move through. Progress is typically represented by physically moving cards across the board. Ideally, vertical positioning will indicate priority.

With this board in place, the stand-up moves through each work item from end of process to start of process (e.g., right-to-left) and from highest-to-lowest priority (e.g., top-to-bottom). You may even explicitly indicate on the board what sequence should be used.

But

Obviously having a board is a pre-requisite which not all teams will have. In that case, a person-by-person structure is more appropriate.

Walk the Board has a much greater tendency to succumb to Reporting to the Leader if Rotate the Facilitator or some other pattern for self-organisation is not also applied.


Where and when?

Meet Where the Work Happens

Do the meeting in the gemba, not a conference room.

-- Marc Graban, "Video of a Daily Huddle at Everett Clinic"

The workplace has many memory triggers about what is going on.

We also don’t want the daily meeting to require a lot of overhead coordinating, finding, and walking to rooms.

Therefore

Meet Where the Work Happens, not in a meeting room. If you have a “story wall” or “Kanban board”, meet in front of that.

But

Other people nearby may find the noise of the meeting disruptive. This typically indicates underlying poor workspace design but must still be acknowledged.

Same Place, Same Time

We want the team to have a sense of ownership of the stand-up. We also want interested parties to be able to drop by to observe a stand-up to avoid having to schedule yet another status meeting. This is difficult if any particular team member is allowed to force a delay or change of location of the stand-up.

Therefore

Have the team agree on and run the daily stand-up at the Same Place, Same Time. Do not wait for stragglers, including architects and managers. The meeting is for the whole team, not for any particular individual. This is especially important if you Use the Stand-up to Start the Day.

Some stricter teams may impose a “fine” for latecomers. I tend to be wary of any kind of punishment mechanism and prefer discussion.

But

Same Place, Same Time is not intended to be blindly inflexible. The important thing is for the start time to be mostly consistent and rescheduling to be rare. If rescheduling is required often, it may be an indication that the start time should change. If a particular location is inconvenient for everyone to get to, it's probably an indication the location should change.

Use the Stand-up to Start The Day

The daily stand-up meeting provides focus and awareness of outstanding issues. If it occurs late in the day, this focus and awareness is wasted.

Therefore

Use the Stand-up to Start the Day. With flexible work hours, not every team member will arrive at work at the same time. A common practice with “flex-time” is to use a set of core working hours. The start time should be at the start of these core working hours. Similarly, if team members need to arrive later for personal reasons (e.g., need to drop off kids at school), the start time should be set at a time so that everyone can attend.

But

There may be a tendency not to work on any project-related tasks until the stand-up. If the Stand-up Meeting Starts the Day... Late, this slack time may be significant. To some extent, this may simply be used as an opportunity to check e-mail, fill in timesheets, etc. but it may be worth investigating removing the stand-up as a “start of day” ritual by scheduling it later in the day.

Don't Use the Stand-up to Start the Day

The stand-up tends to serve as the ritual to set focus for the day, especially if you Use The Stand-up to Start the Day. Because of this, team members tend not to work on features until the stand-up. When the meeting is not actually held first thing, this tendency may have a significant impact on productivity.

Therefore

Don’t Use the Stand-up to Start the Day. Schedule the daily stand- up meeting far enough into the day that it will not be psychologically associated as starting the day.

But

If the daily meeting doesn't start the day, then it can no longer be used as a shared ritual to set team focus at the start the day. Depending on the team, this price may not be worth the apparent increase in efficiency.

When there are many project using stand-ups, it is possible that multiple stand-ups are occurring simultaneously. Observers interested in multiple projects may want to change stand-up times to allow them to be able attend. This is problematic since it risks the sense of ownership for the team if an observer can force a stand-up to adjust to his/her schedule. Nevertheless, this must also be a consideration when deciding when to have the daily stand-up.


How do we keep the energy level up?

Huddle

Volume of speech affects attentiveness as well as effectiveness of communication. Physical distance changes the level of volume required to communicate well. Some people don't speak loudly and don't feel comfortable doing so.

Therefore

The stand-up should be more of a Huddle than a meeting. If it's difficult to hear, bring everyone closer. Beyond allowing for a more relaxed speaking volume, being physically closer tends to cause participants to be more attentive on their own. Being able to stand physically closer is also an expression of greater trust within the team. If the stand-up is a new thing, it's usually enough to use hand gestures to wave people in and say something to the effect of “Let's bring it in”. If the size of the circle has been established for a while, consider explaining the reasons for closing the circle before trying to shrink it.

But

The team must balance closeness with personal comfort zones. Even on a very trusting team, there is a point when people are just standing too close for comfort. Symptoms tend to be participants that are tense and/or fidgety.

Stand Up

Some people are talkative and tend to wander off into Story Telling. Some people want to engage in Problem Solving immediately after hearing a problem. Meetings that take too long tend to have low-energy and participants not directly related to a long discussion will tend to be distracted.

Therefore

Have all attendees Stand Up during the meeting. Use standing up to link physical with mental readiness. Physical discomfort will also remind attendees when a meeting is taking too long. A simple way to encourage this is to simply hold the meeting where there are no chairs.

But

Standing up tends to cause meetings to shorten, but does not guarantee that they will shorten to an optimal length. People may learn to cope with the discomfort instead of taking a more appropriate response. Also if the meetings are not taking too long nor wandering off-topic, standing up is an unnecessary ritual.

Fifteen Minutes or Less

Most people will wander mentally when they are in long meetings. A long, droning meeting is a horrible, energy-draining way to start the day. A specific number helps remind us when to consider adjustment to reduce the time of the meeting.

Therefore

Keep the daily stand-ups to Fifteen Minutes or Less. As a general rule, after fifteen minutes, the average person's mind is going to wander which doesn't help with setting focus.

But

Fifteen minutes may even be too long for smaller teams. Because of the mind-wandering effect, even for larger teams, fifteen minutes is a good limit. Also, it is also possible to have a meeting that is too short where on ending, the attendees still have no idea what's going on nor who to talk to in order to find out.

Signal the End

After the last person has spoken, the team may not immediately realise that the meeting is over. The gradual realisation that it's time to walk away doesn't end the meeting on a high note and may contribute to Low Energy.

Therefore

Signal the End of the stand-up with a throwaway phrase (e.g., "Well, enjoy your lunch everyone.") or some other action.

Time the Meetings

It is difficult to qualitatively judge whether a stand-up is taking too long, especially if it only gradually increases in length.

Therefore

Time the Meetings and publish the results. Most of the time, attendees just don't realise the impact of Story Telling, not being prepared to Take It Offline, or not preparing have on how long the meeting will take. Make it quantifiable.

But

As with all measures, timing the meetings shouldn't be introduced unless there is an actual goal to accomplish due to a problem with energy levels. Once the goal is accomplished, the measurement should be dropped. Measuring for no particular reason leads to suspicion and metrics apathy.

Take it Offline

Some people want to engage in Problem Solving immediately after hearing a problem. Meetings that take too long tend to have low-energy and participants not directly related to a long discussion will tend to be distracted. It is still important to acknowledge that further discussion will be required to solve the raised problem. Some people may find it uncomfortable to enforce the structure of the stand-up by interrupting.

Therefore

Use a simple and consistent phrase like “Take It Offline” as a reminder that such discussions should take place outside of the daily stand-up. If the discussion was Socialising, nothing more is required. If the discussion was Problem Solving, the facilitator (and eventually just the team) should ensure that the right people are nominated or sign up to deal with the issue later.

But

There is a difference between Problem Solving and a clarifying question. Information that is not understood is not useful. The extent upon which clarifying questions are allowed should vary depending on how large the team is and whether it will impact Fifteen Minutes or Less.


How do we encourage autonomy?

Rotate the Facilitator

Team members are Reporting to the Leader, that is, they're only talking to the meeting facilitator instead of each other. Only the meeting facilitator is raising and addressing process issues related to the stand- up. We want the team to take ownership of the stand-up and this requires removing any dependence on a single facilitator.

Therefore

Rotate the Facilitator. Rotate assignment of a role responsible for ensuring people attend the stand-up and stick to the agreed upon rules.

But

Teams that are not experienced with stand-ups benefit greatly from having a coach experienced in the process. It is more that the team should be weaned into taking greater control of the stand-up. At some point, no explicit facilitator should be required at all.

Break Eye Contact

Team members are Reporting to the Leader, that is, they're only talking to the meeting facilitator instead of each other. We want the team to take ownership of the stand-up and this requires removing any dependence on a single facilitator.

Therefore

The facilitator should Break Eye Contact as a subtle way of reminding the speaker that s/he should be addressing the team, not just one person. One way to do this is to move around so that the current speaker can't see the facilitator.


How do we know when a stand-up is going poorly?

I endured regular stand-up meetings for three years. What made the meetings most painful was my boss (I'll call him Wally). His main reason for the stand-up meeting was not to increase efficiency or embrace XP as much as it was to shorten human interaction beyond anything directly related to the work product. ... For Wally, however, the stand-up meeting (like the 7 a.m. Monday meeting and the 5 p.m. Friday meeting) was a loyalty test designed to reinforce the employer- employee relationship.

-- Phillip A. Laplante, "Stand and Deliver: Why I Hate Stand-Up Meetings"

There are stand-up “smells” which are pretty good indicators that things are going wrong. It is important to note that even if you have no smells, this does not mean the stand-up is going right. It just means that it doesn't stink.

Most of the following smells are linked back to the previous patterns. For those that are not, the underlying issues tend to be more subtle or outside the scope of the daily stand-up, and people will have to come up with their own solutions.

Focused on the Runners, not the Baton

People are too focused on what they are doing but neglect to consider whether their activities are actually progressing the work. Reframe the stand-up such that the Work Items Attend.

Reporting to the Leader

Team members are facing and talking to the manager or meeting facilitator instead of to the team. This indicates that the daily stand-up is for the manager/facilitator when it is actually supposed to be for the team. There are various ways to break this dependence: Rotate the Facilitator, Break Eye Contact, change the form of Yesterday Today Obstacles, use Pass the Token, etc.

People are Late

This is directly addressed by Same Place, Same Time, but as mentioned may indicate that the stand-up is being held at the wrong time or at the wrong place.

There are other patterns to respond to this such as imposing a fine. However, I generally would not recommend them as they imply that the issue is about extrinsic motivation when it is much more likely to be something else.

Stand-up Meeting Starts the Day... Late

Because the stand-up is seen to start the work day, no work is done before the stand-up. Depending on how late in the morning the stand- up is, this can have a significant impact on available working hours. This leads to Don't Use the Stand-up to Start the Day.

Socialising

One of the goals of the stand-up is to increase team socialisation. However, the daily stand-up is not intended for team members to “catch up” with each other on non project-related matters. It's difficult to provide examples of this since the degree to which socialising passes from team-building to distracting varies from team to team. The threshold can be detected from the behaviours of participants not directly involved in the socialisation. If their energy levels remain high, then it's probably just team-building; if their energy levels drop, then Take It Offline and perhaps provide another forum to act as a Water Cooler.

I Can't Remember

What did I do yesterday?... I can't remember... What am I doing today?... I dunno...

Lack of preparation causes slower pace which causes lower energy. It also risks failing Fifteen Minutes or Less, which further reduces energy levels.

A nice way to bypass this problem is to switch to a stand-up where Work Items Attend and we Walk the Board.

Otherwise, this is a matter of expectation of responsibility to know the answers for Yesterday Obstacles Today.

Story Telling

Instead of providing a brief description of an issue, the participant provides enough details and context to cause others to tune out. The general rule is to identify obstacles during the stand-up and discuss the details after the stand-up. This can be summarised as “Tell the headline, not the whole story” or Take it Offline.

Problem Solving

It’s a time to raise issues and surface ideas, not a time for in-depth problem-solving.

-- Marc Graban, "Video of a Daily Huddle at Everett Clinic"

The key to keeping the stand-ups Fifteen Minutes or Less is to limit the Story Telling and not succumb to Problem Solving during the meeting. Take it Offline.

Low Energy

Could indicate a slow-down of pace due to Story Telling, Problem Solving, etc. In which case Take it Offline. Could be simply a matter of team size. Could be the time of day which suggests trying the alternative of Use the Stand-up to Start the Day and Don't Use the Stand-up to Start the Day.

Obstacles are not Raised

There may be several reasons for obstacles not being raised. Not remembering, high pain threshold, lack of trust in raising issues (because Obstacles are not Removed), no convenient way of raising issues, etc. The facilitator should take care to encourage people to raise obstacles.

Introducing an Improvement Board may also provide a less confronting medium. Retrospectives are an effective way of discovering the underlying reason why Obstacles are not Raised.

Obstacles are not Removed

With the exception of a blaming environment, the surest way to stop people from raising obstacles is to not remove them. To make it difficult to forget and/or ignore obstacles, track them publicly with an Improvement Board.

Obstacles are Only Raised in the Stand-up

Stand-ups act as a safety net. At worst, an obstacle will be communicated to the greater team within one day. However, doing stand-ups is not intended to stop issues from being raised and resolved during the day. Introducing an alternative medium to raise obstacles such as an Improvement Board may help. If not, underlying reasons may be discovered using retrospectives.


It’s really just standing up together every day

Hopefully this paper has provided some more insight into the subtle details of effective stand-up practices and also common problem indicators. It should be clear that a daily stand-up is not just standing up together every day.

At the end of the day, it’s important to not be too concerned about having every pattern or even having some of the smells. Remember GIFTS. Are people energised? Do people have an improvement mindset? Are people focused on our objectives? Are people working together as a team? Does everyone know what’s going on?

If you can answer those questions in the affirmative, the meeting is probably going okay. After all, it's really just standing up together every day.


For articles on similar topics…

…take a look at the tag: agile


Acknowledgements

I'd like to thank the reviewers for this latest version: Joe Ely, Steven List, Michelle Pace, Jonathan Rasmusson, and Nigel Waddington

I'd also like to thank the reviewers for previous versions: Ivan Moore, Alan Francis, Owen Rogers, Susan Newton, James Ross, Rebecca Parsons, Brian Marick, Dick Gabriel, Linda Rising, James Coplien, Lise Hvatum, Cecilia and Terje Haskins, Danny Dig, David Hecksel, Ali Arsanjani, Bill Wake, Ralph Johnson, Pau Arumi, David Garcia, Leon Welicki, Djamal Bellebia, Dirk Riehle, Hesham Saadawi, and Paddy Fagan.

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone I've ever attended a daily stand-up with.

Significant Revisions

29 August 2011: General overhaul. Emphasise the walk-the-board style.

15 January 2007: Complete revision

17 July 2006: First published on martinfowler.com