The Daily Stand-up: The 3 questions vs The ticket focus

Today, the article I publish is about a key meeting of an Agile team: the Daily Stand-up. From my experience, the format of this meeting can quickly become a problem especially in the case of a team used to work in a traditional approach, in Waterfall.

The Daily Stand-up (or Daily Scrum for Scrum teams). The DS — for intimates — is a daily ceremony that is at the center of the activity of the Dev Team. Its classic format is for each member of the team to answer three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • What problems do I have?

If for a mature Agile team, the questions may seem obvious, in the case of agilization, it is different.

Firstly because not all members are necessarily convinced by agility. And it’s easy to say that you do not have any problem. And that does not help to identify the problems …

Then, because these questions have a rather soporific side if there is a lack of dynamism in the team — which is often the case at the beginning. This format does not encourage to talk about the same topics either. Let us understand well. I do not want to say that it prevents people from talking about tickets on the Kanban board. But it makes people talk about what they have done and not the User Stories on the board. Of course, in theory, we are talking about the same thing, but it is a change of behavior, of agilization, so at this stage it is far from being obvious.

This format also encourages people who are less comfortable to focus on what they are going to say. And during this time, they do not liste those who have spoken. Too bad for the communication. Problems raised by a member of the team may not be heard by the person who has a solution to their problem. In short, the members of the team will talk in turn, usually face to the Scrum Master, waiting for time to pass. And the ultimate goal of the project will be missed: the team will not be totally focused on the tickets.

I describe here my experience in the agilization of a Waterfall team which moreover operates in a regulated environment, which is an additional difficulty.

To overcome these problems, I opted for a new format. Instead of answering these three questions in turn, I asked the team to point out the tickets and that the people working on these tickets give the status. Important information: we first process the rightmost tickets, that is to say those who are best able to get out of the Kanban board and be “done”. The effect is immediate whenever I opt for this format. The Daily Stand-up is much more dynamic, the team members start talking about the same topics, there is more interactions, more dynamism. But above all, it’s no more me, the Scrum Master, which animates the Daily Stand-up, it is a member of the team, in turn. The effect was striking. Each member of the team was much more involved.

This format has of course disadvantages: a member of the team could stay silent and in this case, if he is unoccupied, we will not know it. That’s why I added two questions: “Is the everyone’s work represented on the board”? and “Does every member of the team work all day on the project?” This last question is important if some team members can work on something other than the project on certain days.

One of the effects I have also observed is that it makes it easier for the team to take over the Kanban board, which is clearly my goal.

The Daily Stand-up can be organized and function normally without the presence of the Scrum Master, my presence being there especially to make sure that the problems emerge well, that their solution is well provided, that the team organizes itself well to solve them, to encourage the initiatives of improvement of the organization of the team, etc … I remain therefore observer and intervenes only punctually.

I talked about another format of Daily Stand-up. This one gives another angle of approach, has its advantages and its disadvantages. But the most important thing is not to make regular changes to maintain a dynamism in the Daily Stand-up, isn’t it?

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