Team Daily Stand Up – What Does Great Look Like?

scrum daily standupDon’t let the simplicity of the daily stand up agenda – “Yesterday, today, in my way” – fool you into thinking that it is easy to master.

Behind this elegant minimalism you’ll discover fine grained coordination, emergent discovery, accountability, and the heartbeat for an entire team.

Know what a good stand up looks like and be wary of the pitfalls that lurk in the routine.

Deeper Dive into the Daily Stand Up

The daily stand up is one of several time-boxed events (often referred to as ceremonies because we all seem to hate “meetings“) that are used in Scrum, Kanban, and other frameworks to create regularity. For shu-level teams these events are not optional – they are prescribed. This approach (follow the rules!) maximizes a team’s focus on the purpose of the event and minimizes the potential for waste – in terms of time, effort, duplication, etc. (For more on waste see: Muda).


The Daily helps a team work together in a self-organizing, adaptive way, to maintain flow. They use the Daily to assess how their collective progress is trending toward completing their work (as made visual via their Burnchart  – down or up) and accomplishing the team’s current sprint goal.

The Daily Stand Up:

  • Improves communication
  • Eliminates the need for many other meetings, interruptions and context switches)
  • Highlights (see Snake on the Board) and removes impediments to progress
  • Promotes quick decision-making
  • Is a key “inspect and adapt event”
  • Optimizes productivity, creativity, ownership, visibility and autonomy
  • Helps ensure that the team will transform the Product Backlog Items (PBI’s/User Stories) into a shippable increment of value by the end of a Sprint.

All of the above and it never takes more than 15 minutes a day. What a deal!

Format for a Good Daily Stand up

  • Starts on time, happens at the same place, the same time,
  • Is time boxed to 15 min (or less) – And when the time-box ends, the meeting is over. Yep, mid-sentence. (Some teams might need a timer at first.)
  • Takes place with the team’s task board visible (and up to date)
  • Has everyone standing so they can see the board
  • Has a simple agenda (3Q’s + 1) that is commitment based:
    • Yesterday – What has been accomplished since the last meeting that helped my team move toward our goal?
    • Today – What will be accomplished before the next meeting that will continue to help my team meet our goal?
    • In My Way – What impediments exist, if any, that might block my team from meeting our goal?
    • There’s a great fourth question: Is there anything else we need to talk about?

The Daily is a means for the team to synchronize their activities and organize for the next 24 hour’s work. It is not a status meeting per se (see Pitfalls). While the questions are about collecting info, it is what the team does with that info that really matters.

While the individual performing the role of Scrum Master or Sprint Lead ensures that the team in fact has the Daily, it is the full team’s responsibility for conducting the Daily and sticking to the format. (An outside observer might not even know who the Scrum Master is.) No one on the team should hesitate to call “Foul,” “Sidebar” or ELMO should the discussion stray off format or into the weeds.

To be clear: discussion around fine grain coordination, or impediments and getting them unblocked is necessary. However the discussion needs to be productive and quick. If it can’t be resolved within a minute or so, or requires input from someone external to the team, a sidebar or later discussion is appropriate.

Also, healthy teams will not hesitate to exert a bit of peer pressure. If a team member says he/she is doing the same thing three days in a row, the lack of forward momentum should be obvious and the team should not ignore it or allow it to be swept under the scrum rug. Undone work quickly becomes someone else’s impediment. High performing teams hold each other accountable. And offer to lend a hand to get someone else unstuck.


There a many ways to wander off the path…

  • Degenerating into going thru the motions and making it a status meeting
  • Going into too much detail
  • Discussing things not related to the team’s current sprint goal
  • Not following the Team Agreements
  • Not calling each other on missed commitments – see Conflict
  • Not being accountable for your own commitments
  • Mentioning but then ignoring impediments
  • Ignoring WIP limits exceeded
  • Not keeping track of recurring impediments
  • Ignoring the timebox and running overtime
  • Full cross-functional team not present
  • External participants (Chickens) intruding

How’s Your Daily Stand-Up?

Do a spot check, maybe a quick “constellation check in” or a fist to five with the team, or make it a retro exercise – asking the question: “How close to awesome do you think our daily stand up is?”

It’s helpful at the outset to set the standard for what “Awesome” looks like. Here’s my top ten list:

  1. Strict time box (start/end) with all team members present and focused
  2. Collective focus on the highest priorities (business value, risk, etc)
  3. Collective monitoring of progress/risks related to meeting iteration goal
  4. Emergent discovery, quick decision making and adaptation
  5. Fine grained coordination, load balancing and group support
  6. Identification of and plan for clearing impediments
  7. Recording of impediment patterns for discussion at upcoming retro
  8. Individual commitment “Say, mean, do”
  9. Mutual accountability
  10. Peer pressure (Sidebar/ELMO/Foul)

I want to sneak in #11: an outside observer might not even be able to tell “who’s the leader” – as everyone plays that role.

As you help reveal the system to itself, provide a means for it to self correct – ask those team members that are at extremes – close or far from center of the constellation – “Why? What makes it that way for you?”

If many folks are at the edges, ask “What would bring you two steps closer to the sun?”

Read More

Overcoming Four Common Objections to the Daily Scrum by Mike Cohn

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