Stand Up!

If you have experience with Scrum or other agile software development methodologies, you are likely familiar with the concept of “stand-up” meetings – the short, daily status meetings where each team member answers three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What do I plan to do today?
  • What is the way?

To keep the meetings short, discussion is deferred until everyone has answered the three questions. To encourage short meetings, people often stand – thus, the name. The point of these meetings is to keep the team and any interested outsiders informed of what is happening on the project.

But, you may not be aware of some additional things that help teams keep their stand-up meetings effective and productive:

Only team members speak

To keep the meeting focused, only team members are allowed to speak. A team member is defined as someone who is pulling tasks from the current Sprint backlog. Interested parties, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner, executives and others, are encouraged to attend the meeting to receive status updates. But, they are discouraged from speaking until after the stand-up meeting ends.

Many teams host a short “collaboration” session immediately following the stand-up. This is the appropriate time for interested parties to make comments, ask questions, etc.

Speak to the backlog

When answering the three questions, team members should only refer to work that directly affects the Sprint backlog. Your teammates need to know where the project stands, not how many meetings you attended.

Here’s an example of how NOT to answer the three questions:

  • Yesterday, I went to some meetings and then had lunch with John. I wrote some code in the afternoon, but I had to leave early for a doctor appointment.
  • Today, I have some more meetings.
  • The only thing in my way is that I need to take Fluffy to the vet.

Here’s an example of the correct way to answer the three questions:

  • Yesterday, I worked on Story 412. I completed the database and web services tasks. And, I started on the UI task.
  • Today, I plan to finish the UI task then start working on tasks for the next available story. Right now, it looks like that might be Story 416.
  • There is nothing preventing me from finishing Story 412. But, I have some questions about how to implement Story 416. Can we talk about it after stand-up?

For more on the subject of running effective, productive stand-up meetings, take a look at It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns of Daily Stand-up Meetings from Martin Fowler. (For those who don’t know: Martin Fowler is the Chief Architect at ThoughtWorks and the author of several highly respected books, including UML Distilled, Refactoring, and Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture.)

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