Top 10 Best Practices for Productive Stand Ups

roundtableStand ups are one of the core Agile ceremonies that keep a Scrum team healthy. Having a daily team stand up is like brushing your teeth - it’s a regular habit that becomes part of your routine (unless you’re a fan of dental work). Stand ups are all about team coordination and commitment. It's a short, focused period of communication for the entire team. The output is a plan for what will be accomplished in the next 24 hours. By answering the three questions*, the team stays aligned and quickly surfaces issues before they become major blocks.

Good stand ups require discipline; for teams new to Agile, it’s easy to get off track and turn stand up into a bloated status meeting. Following is a list of best practices to keep your stand ups running smoothly:

1) Respect the time box! Stand ups should not exceed 15 minutes. If you’re going longer, it’s likely that team members aren’t talking enough during the day. Long, rambling “updates,” or deep discussions of issues and impediments don’t belong at stand up.

2) Meet in person. Stand ups should be held in person, standing up, in front of the team board. Good communication is tough when half of your team is on a speakerphone.

3) Come on time and prepared. Don’t be late…that’s just disrespectful to your team. Think through your three questions before you get to the meeting:

1) What did I do in the last 24 hours?
2) What is my plan for the next 24 hours?
3) What are my blocks and issues?

If you’re using an Agile tracking tool (like Rally or Jira), update it before the meeting.

4) No Multitasking Ever. Your full attention should be focused on the other team members. If what they are saying is boring you, that’s a big red flag for team health.

5) Save long discussions for the Meet After or Huddle. Blocks and issues will come up in stand ups, and they should be noted by a team member (like the Scrum Master). After everyone has spoken, the team can quickly determine how blocks and issues should be handled (in a Meet After or Team Huddle? In a separate discussion with other Subject Matter Experts?). Team members not involved in block discussions should be free to go.

6) Give your stand up to the team. You are not “reporting in” to your Scrum Master. Keep your eyes on your team members, and give your stand up to them. The Scrum Master gives a stand up to the team just like every other team member.

7) Share responsibility. The Scrum Master shouldn’t always “run” the stand up. Build leadership within the team by having different team members start the meeting. Try tossing an object to "pass" the turn to the next person, rather than the Scrum Master calling on team members. And it should go without saying that the team always has stand up, even if the Scrum Master is out or unavailable.

8) The best time for stand up is…a time that works for all team members. If that’s 10pm, that’s OK…as long as it works for the team.

9) Managers are welcome…and they should refrain from asking questions or commenting until everyone has spoken. Remember, stand up is not a report to a manager, it’s the team communicating to itself.

10) Have some fun! Stand up should energize the team! Try starting with an improv warm-up, or add a “silly question” to the standard three*. Start your stand up with the last word of the person who went before you. End with a team cheer or Hoo-ah. Bring snacks.