Effective stand-ups

Stand-up is considered to be the most important event in Scrum. Although there are numerous guidelines on how to run effective stand-ups, here are some of the tips based on my experience.

Why Stand-ups?

  1. Stand-up’s offer a means to share and build a knowledge base in the team. It’s a 2-way channel, as in, “Every problem is TEAM’s problem” and “Every piece of information is TEAM’s property”. Over a period of time, it helps the team develop good capability to collectively solve problems, thereby building “Self-Organizing teams”.
  2. They are necessary for promoting transparency which is extremely important for retrospection and improvement.
  3. As a side note, not everybody in the team is same. Some people are introverts. Everybody should get a chance to express themselves and get involved. Working in isolation has adverse effects in software development.

Here are some of the tips to improve the stand-ups

  1. Come prepared:- Most basic, and also the most overlooked thing. Come prepared about what you are going to share in stand-up.
  2. Be attentive:- Once you finish talking, do not get distracted. Maintain focus and listen carefully to other team members. This shows that you respect others and are eager to get involved. Plus from a career perspective, solving other’s problems can take you a long way ahead.
  3. Start it daily at a fixed time:- Some amount of discipline is necessary in software development. Although, sometimes it is ok if someone misses a stand-up due to unavoidable reasons, after all we all are humans 🙂
  4. Have quality discussions:- Although Scrum says a stand-up should not exceed 15 mins, it is better to focus on quality than quantity. It is ok to go into details of things, it helps everybody learn from each other. If someone faces a similar issue in future, they know where to look for and whom to talk to.
  5. Maintain a sidebar:- If the discussions go for a long time, take it offline, and put them in a sidebar.
  6. Maintain a board:- Although there are many ways used by teams to look at the work of current sprint, (such as TFS board, Jira board), IMO nothing beats a simple whiteboard. The main reason for that is you can customize a board as per your needs, add more columns, maintain more important information, stick more stickies for things which you feel are important.
  7. Retrospect on stand-up:- Reflect on the way the stand-up is conducted and run. Is it adding value? What are the pain points? Can we use our scrum board to help the situation improve? In one of the teams, I worked for, failing regression tests were a serious and frequent problem. We decided to put that number on the board in bold and red. We also decided to fix at least 5 tests per sprint. This lifted the transparency and people passing by the board took notice of that. Soon other teams also discussed this in their stand-up and joined in our efforts. We reached the stage where all tests were in green with the collective effort.

Asking “Why?” and seeking the answer for it is the most crucial step in any process. The most junior member should feel comfortable to question the most senior person in the organization. Things don’t work just by telling or imposing them. The one’s involved in the process should understand the “Why?”. This will establish a permanent connection between people and processes.

Dattatraya Kale

Aspiring agile software craftsman, clean code, polyglot, in love with different programming paradigm. I am on a never-ending journey towards mastery of software.

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