We’ve all been there. Daily scrums or standup meetings that go on and on, provide absolutely no value, they are essentially useless.
The question is, how did we get here? Yes, we’re trying to follow all of these agile principles, but has our quest to be agile turned into a mindless set of rules that nobody actually understands or correctly applies? And when it comes to scrum meetings, why are these daily standups that are supposed to help us better stay on track and improve productivity doing the exact opposite?
To answer that question, let’s first evaluate the symptoms, and then we’ll throw out a few ideas of how you can fix your daily standups and turn them from pointless to priceless!
Signs your daily standup meetings are a daily disaster
- Your meetings are too long. Standups shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes max. Get in and get out is the goal. If your standups are lasting 30+ minutes, that’s a red flag.
- Team members stop showing up. When people stop getting value from meetings, you’ll notice they start figuring out any and all ways to avoid them. If people are starting to get casual with their attendance, that is a key indicator your meetings aren’t effective.
- You’re focused on the wrong objective. A standup should be focused on the sprint’s goals, not on keeping people busy and making sure everyone has something to do. There’s a thin line between efficiency and effectiveness, and if you’re not careful, your quest for efficiency will lead you down the less effective path.
Any of this sound familiar? If so, you’ve fallen into the trap of turning solid agile principles into following pointless rules just for the sake of following a rule. Which is not just “not helping” you, it’s actually hurting you, your employees, and your business.
Now, on to how we can fix this problem if you’re experiencing these issues with your daily standups.
4 ways to improve your daily standup
- Keep it short. Remember the 15-minute rule! You have to have a way to stop people from going down rabbit holes or rambling on too long. You can get creative about this if you want with a buzzer, timer, or something else that stops team members and even the Scrum Master from talking too long. Going through a Kanban board is a great way to stay on track and keep the discussions precise.
- Focus on blockers. You want to avoid the techie talk and babble and focus simply on what’s stopping you from getting the task done. If there’s something in the way, the team member can bring it up and the team can quickly evaluate how to help. When you focus on this for a few meetings, it’s amazing how the rambling stops, and people simply say, “no blockers, we’re good.”
- Set details aside. You can still talk about the details the engineers want to dive into. Just ask them to do it in a side meeting. The standup is simply to identify the problem. You can discuss the details in another meeting with the appropriate attendees.
- Create a safe environment. As a Scrum Master or leader of a standup, you want any and all information. You don’t want your team worried to say something. Make sure everyone feels comfortable and safe to share and talk about anything. You do this by not blaming, belittling, or negatively responding to problems, issues, and complications. Instead, incentivize people to speak up and celebrate every point, idea, and thought. Who knows… sometimes the newest and youngest person on the team can see something and bring up a massively valuable solution.
When you implement these four strategies, your daily standups will be more effective and useful. They will return you back to agile principles that help and move you further away from a “checking the box” mentality we tend to fall into with scrum meetings.