How we improved our #Agile Daily Stand up

I’ve been in a lot of different projects with a lot of different stand up meetings, but recently I was at a client site that held daily stand ups for a team of over 20 people and the meetings were still under 10 minutes. Before I get into what made their stand up unique, I’d like to first share my stand up experiences…

My Daily Stand Up experience

Problem #1 – Too long

I’ve been on many teams with that held Daily Stand ups. The size of these teams varied from 2 to 25. But on every single project, we struggled with the Daily Stand ups running long. Everyone usually reported quickly on what they worked on yesterday and what they are planning to work on today. But then when we got to issues portion, a lot of things happened that were hard to control. Some of the things that were hard to control were:

  • People used it to complain about all sorts of issues
  • People used it to ask a question they had for one other person because it was the first time they saw the person that day
  • People used it to discuss non-project related items (Business Development, Marketing, and others)
  • People shared far too much detail in these meeting

Sound Familiar?

Problem #2 – No client representation

The second problem I frequently encountered was that there was no client representation in the Daily Stand Up. I was one of the people who had reservations about clients attending as I wanted to have the freedom to discuss all issues without potentially alarming clients. I see now in retrospect that this perspective was a holdover from my Waterfall days and was a mistake. By not having clients at the meeting, we were still encouraging an Us and Them project division. I believe it also allowed for more complaining instead of facilitating the reporting of just the issues that required assistance. I also felt that the client was not aware of all the issues the project was dealing with as they were not at these meetings. I think issues were more of a surprise than they would have been if they had attended these Daily Stand Ups. In fact, I bet they would have helped the developers out by removing troublesome scope if they knew the issues being encountered.

My New Observations

The client I am at now had the following three questions that they asked the team members at the stand up:

  1. What did I work on Yesterday?
  2. What am I working on Today?
  3. What do I need help on?

I loved the phrasing of the third question. In a subtle change of wording, these Daily Stand Ups have been absent of any complaining and insertion of questions that should not be part of a Daily Stand Up. Now the only items being brought up other than yesterday’s and today’s status is what I need help on. I think this is a brilliant rephrasing to ensure focus is on what the meeting is intended to accomplish.

That said, we don’t have client participation in the Daily Stand Ups yet. But this just the start of the project and hopefully we can involve the clients as we proceed…. It is all about getting better…