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Optimizing the Daily Standup into Oblivion

The daily standup, rather fittingly, does not put people at the edge of their seats. It just serves an important and respectable function. But some optimization-minded people will try to “improve” standups—and these improvements run the risk of causing damage. In an article for Scrum Alliance, Jack Reed describes some instances of standup “improvements” not working out.

Better Fix It

Firstly, some scrum teams really do decide to sit down for standups, adopting an attitude of, “What difference does it really make?” But scrum is all about the subtleties with its ceremonies. If a team cannot be bothered to stand up for these short meetings, what else might they not be bothered to do during a sprint?

On the flip side, Reed has heard of people encouraging the opposite as well—stand on one leg the whole time to encourage people to make the standup even quicker! This is just plain stupid. Shame on you if this idea ever crossed your mind.

Some people want to zealously watch the time allotted to any discussion during the standup, to ensure it does not run long. They will even actively cut people off mid-sentence, as if to scold them, “Plan your words better next time!” Although keeping time is indeed important, it is not as important as ensuring the team conveys all its critical information. Let people finish their thought.

Reed does share one idea for standups that he thinks works very well though. You just need a board and a marker:

Whoever has the marker provides the team with their update, scribbling down perhaps just a subject heading of their update for each section of the Daily Scrum (yesterday, today, and their blockers). When they’re finished with their update, they pass or throw the marker (gently) to another team member until everyone on the team is finished. As the marker is rotated from team member to team member, people are less likely to fall into the common (in new Scrum teams) trap of looking to the ScrumMaster to choose the next speaker. If the team’s written updates are left on the board, then they can act as a gentle reminder to everyone the next day. It saves having to remember what everyone said yesterday, and they can pick up where they left off.

The moral of the story is that, when you think you have an idea to make the standup better, you should remember to think twice. You can view the original article here: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2017/august/daily-scrum-taken-too-far

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid’s Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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