Not a status meeting!

The stand-up meeting is a simple meeting that Agile teams hold on a daily basis to plan and synchronize activities. The Scrum Guide states:

“The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours.” 

Conceptually the daily stand-up is a simple event and when done correctly provides microplanning adjustments that keep a team on track. This simple meeting can be a great tool; however, it often becomes a HORROR story.  Nothing has changed since the last time we addressed the stand-up meeting in 2016

Implementation of what appears to be a very simple meeting (also called events or ceremonies — my least favorite) is where problems occur. Typically, the team answers three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you going to do today?
  3. What is blocking your progress?

The three questions scream status, rather than planning.  Jeremy Berriault, Senior Technology Director (and SPaMCAST Columnist) stated that for most Daily Scrums the biggest value comes from “shared status”. Shared status is not the same as planning.  Answering the three questions fails the planning hurdle unless the work a team is doing meets four critical attributes:

  1. The team is working on interrelated work.  – Teams whose members that are working on independent streams of work (potentially with different product owners and stakeholders) get little or no value from planning together, therefore, share status to fill the time at a stand-up.
  2. Work is not all doled out or assigned upfront. – Teams that assign or allow all work items to be assigned or taken during sprint planning are making a tacit assumption that daily planning and adjustments are made by the individual doing the work. Planning as a team on a daily basis will have little value.  
  3. The team is cross-functional.  – Teams whose members are all specialists find it difficult to share work, swarm or pull the most important work from the sprint backlog, therefore, will find little value in daily microplanning. 
  4. Some slack exists. – Teams whose members have little or no slack can not help or swarm to problems when they are encountered.  Daily microplanning does not have a lot of value. 

The four attributes are not radical but the work that many “agile” teams do doesn’t meet one or more of these attributes.  I am not judging teams whose work doesn’t meet these attributes; however, when one or more these attributes are not present, stand-up meetings become status meetings.  Status meetings—even if they are only 15 minutes—are a time sink. The daily stand-up is a powerful tool for microplanning but many teams are not using the stand-up for planning.  It is an ok tool for sharing status, however, that is not the goal of the meeting and there are more efficient ways to share status.


Next:  Daily or Not