Better standups

The classic daily standup has everyone answer three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What is blocking you?

This format often falls flat. A developer talks about what they worked on yesterday while half the team glaze over. A developer talks about what they did yesterday even though it has no impact on the rest of the team. Information that would be valuable to the team somehow gets lost in the noise. At the end of standup no-ones any better off than before.

Why? And more importantly, how can we fix it? To understand why, it helps to understand the origins of the standup…

Origin story

The daily standup was popularised by people like Ron Jeffries, who advocated shrinking user stories until they can be done in a day. When stories take a day then everyone has a valuable “what i did yesterday”. For example, “I completed story X, now it’s ready for QA”.

But if stories take several days then the “what i did yesterday” update becomes, “i shaved a yak and i’m still working on story X”. This isn’t very valuable for the rest of the team. No-one cares about the yak shaving. The team trusts your pulling your weight, they know you’re a professional with an interest in doing a good job.

3 potential fixes

So how to improve your daily standup?

1. Shrink stories down to 1 day.

2. Focus on helping the team plan for today, rather than on explaining yesterday.

3. Don’t give an update, tell a story. Context, Action, Outcome.

  • DON’T list the things you did yesterday and then list the things you’ll do today
  • DO list your stories and for each one give some context followed by what you plan today
  • DON’T just say, “i plan to work on blah today”
  • DO say, “i plan to work on blah and finish it so that it’s ready for QA by the end of today”


Categorized as scrum

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