Bored at a Daily Stand-up? Question the “Who” and “Why”

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that posts on daily stand-up meetings take a top standing (*pun intended*) among the blogs related to Scrum. Looks like I’m ready to put my two cents in as well.

When researching on some practice, I first look if there are any meaningful clues in its name. According to the classical definition, daily stand-up meetings are held with people in upright standing position for the reason that looks quite ridiculous: discomfort of standing for too long is supposed to keep the meetings short. Hmm… If there’s no other motive to keep the meetings short, rather than the urge to get seated faster, something must be missing in the whole concept of daily stand-ups. It means they can get so boring, that people would lose focus even in less than 5-10 minutes. Most likely, they would have trouble focusing on what the others are saying, because it’s in no way related to their current work (or related remotely).  As a consequence of this boredom, the team skip preparation for the stand-ups since they know that it’s a formal thing, and sometimes all they have to share with the others is:  “I was digging into some bugs, looking how to fix them, will go on with that today as well”. No commitments are made, and the same status updates are delivered for several days in a row.

All of the above are surefire signs that your daily stand-up meetings need a serious health check. If people go with the formal “what” (I’m doing), “how” (I’m progressing with my task), and “when”  (will I complete the task), and this seems to be of no interest to everyone present at the stand-up, then it’s time to question the “who” (is attending), and “why” (the reasons for attending).

It might be that the crowd of folks at a stand-up gets too large, and as they still think of themselves as one development unit (and they are, on a higher level), their daily tasks have become more autonomous, and progress reports they share don’t seem relevant as daily updates anymore. Could be they’re each doing smaller features, or sub-projects; or it could be that your large team has inconspicuously turned into several smaller teams. Now, will the guys in those mini-teams be genuinely interested in sharing and listening to tiny details about the work that isn’t in their current focus? Daily? For sure, not. But they would want more meaningful high-level progress updates from the other mini-teams, as they are still interested in the bigger picture. It would never do harm for everyone else in a larger team to know what’s going on if those mini-teams report on their overall progress as one unit, not as standalone developers.

So, a daily stand-up meeting can morph into various shapes, depending on how your team morphs into various work landscapes. Boredom and lack of focus are sure signs that “who” and “why” need to be questioned. Naive hacks such as keeping meetings short by standing-up, or other trickster stuff like that will not get to the root of the issue. All the problems with daily stand-up meetings eventually boil down to sharing the irrelevant information. If you sense any single hint of boredom in the air, it’s time to do a health check. No need to make it time-specific: what good it is if you decide to re-frame stand-ups once a month, or once in 2 weeks, but something in the work changes, and adjustments have to be made right away?

Your daily stand-up may turn into a status meeting, nothing wrong with that. It’s just another example that the goal is not to follow some practice by the book (a daily stand-up is a recommended practice for Scrum), but tune it to the way you work, not the other way around. That’s what they call Agile, and that’s what the “work-get feedback-iterate-get feedback-iterate” loop is about. In this case, the feedback cycle would run in the context of daily stand-up practice.

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