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Standups for agile teams

19th Feb, 2024
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    Standups for agile teams

    Communication is the key for any team working closely to deliver a solution. The foundation of Agile is based on frequent interactions that provide multiple opportunities for the team to come closer, daily standup being one of them. There may be varied names for daily standup like daily scrum, daily huddle, quick catchups, daily sync-ups, etc. but the purpose remains unchanged. Going back to the non-agile days or to the teams which are not working in an agile fashion, they too, choose a time to interact, to update, or to check on any new advancements, but, the frequency differs. So, what makes daily scrum different from others? 

    What is a Daily standup scrum ceremony? 

    The daily standup is one of the scrum ceremonies prescribed by Scrum, where the team meets daily; same timesame place, to talk about Sprint goals and also check if they're on track or if there's a need to change the course. Daily Scrum helps the team to track the progress, for which they use the Sprint board. The Sprint board is essentially used to talk about the deliverablesthe associated timelines and if there's any impediment that is stopping them from moving forward. The daily standup meeting is not a status update meeting; it is a time when the scrum team collectively discusses and takes ownership for a Sprint goal.  

    The term ‘standup’ is used because it is meant to be short and precise. It is usually done with team members standing up to discuss the work items, though this is not compulsory. The purpose of standing up is to keep the meeting short and to the point. Daily standup, in a way, provides daily planning for the scrum teams to stay focused on the sprint goal. 

    How to conduct a Daily standup 

    To conduct a good daily standup, everyone in the team should be aware of the agenda and come prepared for the discussion. The scrum master initiates the meeting with a quick warm-up topic (hardly lasts for a minute) that sets the tone for the meeting and serves as the ice breaker. It can be anything general; from the weather to appreciation, or any topic that makes the team comfortable.  

    How to conduct a Daily standup
    For the entire meeting, the team remains focused and involved. They can stand near the Sprint board or any visual board where they're tracking the progress. In case of a distributed environment, the team should be using the screen share with the details of the sprint board/taskboard. 

    'Three questions' - the core of Daily Standup: 

    'Three questions' - the core of Daily Standup

    1. What I did yesterday? 
    2. What is my plan for today? Or before we meet again. 
    3. Are there any impediments? 

    Time-boxing the daily scrum meeting is vital; it should not go beyond 15 minutes. If there's anything the team wants to talk about apart from 'three' questions, it should be done once the daily scrum is over. Any discussion on the impediment that doesn't require the complete team should be taken as a sidebar.  

    Everyone in the team gets a chance to talk about the task/work in hand. As a rule, when a team member is providing the inputs, the other members will listen and stay quiet. This ensures that only one person is talking at a time. The scrum master can introduce creative ways of conducting a daily scrum that helps team participation and induces respect for others.  

    Here’s an example of how team members can respond to the three questions: 

    • “Yesterday, I completed writing the test cases for the login screen.” 
    • “Today, I will work with John to get it peer-reviewed and will also start testing the authentication part” 
    • “No blockers” 

    Swift and short. Sticking to three questions helps in completing the daily scrum on time. Staying with the rules promotes discipline and better work culture.

    Why is the daily standup important? 

    Transparency and planning are vital for effective delivery. Getting teams on the same platform requires collaboration, communication, and teamwork. Daily scrum provides the team with the opportunity to talk about the daily task, communicate any blockers, and discuss if there's any change in the plan. A short 15-minute sync up helps the team stay focused on the goal. The team members can call out if they need any help with the work items, which is another opportunity to take ownership as a team.  

    Some of the benefits of daily standup include: 

    1. Improves communication 
    2. Helps to identify blockages or impediments 
    3. An opportunity to inspect and adapt 
    4. Improves team accord 
    5. Helps to keep the team focused 
    6. Increases the level of accountability  
    7. Creates a sense of accomplishment while talking about the done tasks 

    Though it has many benefits, it can only be reaped if the daily scrum is done in a way prescribed in the Scrum Guide. Daily scrum is one among the five key events to be conducted in a sprint and serves a tactful purpose. For most of the teams, daily scrum is one of the first things that happens at the start of the day. It sets the tone and the expectation for the entire day, similar to creating a to-do list before the start of any work.  

    Who Attends a Stand-up? 

    The daily scrum is one of the scrum ceremonies that is attended by the development team, the scrum master, and the product owner. Anyone else apart from these three roles can join but they'll have to be quiet and stay as an observer till the time meeting gets over. At times people from different areas who are directly/indirectly involved in the delivery may want to check on the progress. They can be a part of the daily scrum, but the rule applies to them as well, which is, only the scrum team will talk. They can ask questions only when the daily scrum is over. 

    Who Attends a Stand-up?

    What do we talk about? 

    The format of the daily scrum sticks to the three questions: 

    1. What I accomplished yesterday? 
    2. What is the plan for today? 
    3. Are there any impediments in the path of my work? 

    These three questions help the team to stay focused and timeboxed.  

    With the first question, the team member will talk about what they have completed before the start of the daily scrum. It consists of the task that they had planned and called out in the last daily scrum. Sometimes there might be a certain deviation from what they had mentioned and what exactly they worked on. This should be called out specifically as part of the daily scrum. Talking about the ‘done’ work creates a sense of accomplishment and sets the right tone for starting up with another task. 

    The second question is more about the plan for today or the plan once the daily scrum is over. Here the team member talks about the work items they plan to finish before the next meeting. It is advised to pull only as per the capacity. While answering this question, there might be a need to change the course of action in case there's a dependency or if there's any impediment that blocks the way forward for that task. When the team member is calling out the items they have planned to work on, it creates a sense of ownership as they announce the strategy. 

    The third question focuses on clearing the path and removing any impediments that might come in the way of delivery. The team member raises any impediment or blockages they foresee, or they talk about the blockers that can impact sprint goal. Talking about the impediments helps the team to readjust the course and look for ways to resolve the blocker as early as possible. Identifying blockers early helps to reduce the risk.  

    Where and when? 

    The daily standup should happen at the same time and same place. Finding a new place every day creates an overhead and it is time-consuming, hence the reason for ‘same place’. The scrum team should use the sprint board to call out the task and the subsequent progress. Ideally, the daily scrum should happen near the Sprint board. This helps in visualizing the flow and to realize where the team stands in terms of the Sprint goal. Setting up the sprint meeting at the same place daily helps in wiring the minds of the team member to follow the same discipline. If the team is sitting alongside several other teams, it might create a noisy environment to run the daily scrum. In such instances, the scrum master or any of the team members can book a meeting room on a recurring basis.  

    To address the ‘when’ part, the meeting should ideally be the first thing to be done when work starts. Being the first team activity, it helps in planning the entire day which further creates momentum amongst the team members. The start time must remain consistent and one should avoid rescheduling the daily scrum. With flexible work environments, it might not be possible that everyone is present at the same time during the start of the day. In such cases the team should opt for a slot where they can have maximum participation. Working across time zones requires a slot that works for all. The daily standup should not be treated as a kickoff for the day, but as a time to talk about the advancement towards the goal and the issues and any help required with them. 

    Keeping the meetings timeboxed and on time helps the team to create a disciplined work environment. Daily scrum gives an opportunity to self-organize and work as a team towards a single goal. 

    Stand-ups for distributed teams

    Stand-ups for distributed teams
    With the worldwide pandemic situation and the teams working from home, we are living in a world with an extremely distributed environment. Agile helps here too. In such cases, the teams should be leveraging the online tools available, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. for video conferencing. The calendars should be updated with the recurring meeting invites that consist of a link to join the video.  

    Why focus on video? Because humans feel more connected through video calls rather than just audio. Alsovideo conferencing promotes collaboration and creates a sense of a safe environment. 

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    Common Downsides to look for: 

    1. Impediments are not getting raised – There can be multiple reasons for blockers not being shared across the team. Trust issues can be one of them. The Scrum Master/facilitator should help the team feel safe and provide the team with a platform to voice out the issues. 
    2. Team Members reluctant to join – In some cases, the team members might feel the daily scrum to be a useless activity or it's just another meeting. In such cases, the facilitator should try to understand the reason behind such behavior and coach the individuals on the benefits. 
    3. Daily Scrum gets converted to the status meeting – There are subtle signals to watch out for. 
    4. Timebox not being followed. 


    If you want the Scrum implementation to work for your team, following the prescribed practices and ceremonies helps a great deal. Even more than the process or ceremony, it is important to understand the team and how to make them energized to start the day, you should also learn how to best leverage the scrum ceremonies to get the best benefits and improve the overall productivity and teamwork. Daily standups help to focus on the common goal and raise the overall morale of the team and project.  


    Deepti Sinha

    Blog Author

    Deepti is an Agile Coach by profession and Freelance Trainer with over 11 years of industry experience working primarily with healthcare & finance clients in delivering business. She has played a wide variety of roles in the graph of her career, whether it be, management, operations or quality. She likes reading fiction, management and loves to write her experiences. Her colleagues mostly describe her as very detail oriented person with a knack of creativity and imagination. And yes, she loves feedback more than her coffee!!

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