Sometimes doing what book says is out of the question!

When a Daily Scrum or daily stand-up are not used for micro-planning and collaborating to achieve the team’s goal, they are occurring for a reason.  Those meetings are scratching some other itch than planning, an itch that however unagile is often defended. When the goal of a daily meeting is something other than group planning there are more efficient and less expensive approaches even for highly agile teams to address status and have a social event.

When stand-ups have become code for daily status reports: 

Use Slack or other written collaborative tools as a substitute for meeting.  Collaboration tools are excellent for capturing, documenting, and distributing status asynchronously. Tools allow team members to add status in a specific channel which then can be consumed as needed without having to gather people together. This approach works well for distributed teams and/or teams that working on unrelated pieces of work where staying informed is useful but not critical for planning. For example, several years ago, I worked for a small boutique consulting firm.  The team (much more a practice group than a team) delivered coaching and process improvement services. On a daily basis, each person provided a status on where they were and what they were doing. A true daily stand-up wasn’t needed even though we used other techniques from Scrum. 

Separate social and status components of the daily meetings.  Push statuses to more asynchronous/push methods such as collaboration tools (Slack) or video or podcasts. Let people who need to consume status information do so on their own schedule. Hold a separate team meeting on a periodic basis to allow for social interaction. Stand-ups as not social events, however, when asked, a substantial number of people will say that the social aspect of the meeting is important.  Embrace the need for social interaction, just don’t confuse that with a stand-up.  

When Stands-ups have become overhead due to extremely close collaboration:

Change the cadence of your Daily Scrum.  Cadence changes are useful where teams have rich internal communications. Mobbing is a scenario where the approach to work (the whole team working on the same problem, together at the same time) often negates the need for a daily fixed replanning meeting.  Replanning occurs when it makes sense. For example, a team I was coaching that was mobbing for an entire iteration (an interesting experiment) held a stand up meeting after they completed each problem they were tackling. Some days they completed several small stories and therefore held multiple stand-up type planning sessions.  In other cases when tackling larger stories they held formal stand-ups every other day (after the experiment with the whole team decided to work on breaking larger stories down before working on them). Holding a stand-up when needed worked very well for the team.  

Use risk to establish a stand-up cadence. A slightly different approach to changing the cadence of the Daily Scrum uses risk to accelerate or decelerate the number of microplanning meetings that are held. Leveraging risk is a useful governor for scenarios where stories are tightly coupled (not very independent), planning adjustments are often needed more often than once a day due to the complexity of non-independent stories. In high-risk scenarios, consider shorter stand-up meetings multiple times a day.  This approach can also be used with teams that are distributed across the globe with stand-up at the beginning and end of each day. 

Daily Scrums/Stand-ups are a great tool for microplanning and collaboration when used appropriately.  As a coach, I try to help teams find a way to use the event for the purpose it is intended. When, for whatever reason, that can’t happen there are other options than to pretend that a Daily Scrum at a fixed time and cadence is the only available answer. 


Next: Approaches To Avoid The Dreaded Status Trap