Focused Standups

If you are a fan of The Walking Dead you know that Rick’s group (the main characters of the show) ask strangers three questions before allowing them into the fold. “How many walkers have you killed? How many people have you killed? Why?” All prospects must answer these questions and they help Rick’s group determine if someone will be a valuable addition. This is important in the apocalypse.

Our daily standups shouldn’t resemble the apocalypse, but we also answer three questions. “What did I do yesterday? What am I going to do today? Do I have any impediments?” These questions help our Scrum team understand if we are moving forward at a reasonable pace and if we will successfully complete the sprint.

Each team member should stay focused on the three questions during their turn. This helps keep the standup effective and short. Everyone is empowered to remind team members to keep the standup on track and to the point. Don’t assume this is the sole responsibility of the Scrum Master or team lead. If someone is going off in the weeds, politely ask “Can we discuss this more after standup?”

During my turn in standup, I try to limit what I say and use the following format:

  • Yesterday I worked on / completed [task/story].
  • Today I will work on / complete [task/story].
  • I do/don’t have an impediment [which is …].
  • I need to talk more about [some topic] with [some people] after standup.

In my opinion, the last statement is just as important as the three questions. Make a habit of including it when you have more to discuss and your standups will be shorter. Waiting to have additional discussions after the standup will allow people who aren’t involved in the discussions to go back to work.

If your Scrum team is properly¬†sized, then it should only need 15 minutes for standups. But if the standups regularly last longer, encourage everyone to use the format above. Post it on the wall if needed. If that doesn’t work, consider time-boxing the standup. When 15 minutes are up, standup is over and it’s time for additional discussions. Overtime, team members will learn to keep their input to the point.