Time For a Stand-up Revolution
Alright, I get it, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking that the world has more urgent topics to tackle than the Daily Scrum. But trust me, have you seen the teams’ faces? They have to suffer it on a daily basis!
By improving the standup, we might save thousands of developers from their daily misery. Besides, you know it is my all-time favorite topic. So let the stand-up revolution commence!
The Deadly Daily Scrum
Through my daily work with the teams and my Agile State of Mind YT Channel, I’m on a mission to bring the spark back to the Daily meetings. Why? Because if our daily sucks, we suffer daily!
And I ask myself, must it really be a daily ordeal?
In this era of post-pandemic remote work, we’ve witnessed a seismic shift in how we operate. Might even whisper about a post-Scrum age dawning…
My argument here? The Daily Scrum needs more than a facelift; it needs a complete overhaul. Let’s toss that “Daily” label aside and let the teams chart their own course. They should be able to decide not only how to run their Standup but also how often to hold it.
How it started?
We used to be excited to start the Daily. We’d gather in the office, the entire team huddled around the board, shoulder to shoulder, catching up on our days and weekends. It was the formal opening of a working day when all the team members met.
And that’s also how it got its definition in Agile Manifesto
“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
Scrum Guide 2020:
“It is held at the same time and place
every working day of the Sprint.”
So As you see it is being described as a face-to-face meeting.
How it’s going
GitLab was a trendsetter it seems. It was one of the first companies to embrace working remotely before it was cool. They created The Remote Manifesto and it reads:
Daily stand-up meetings are for bonding,
blockers and the future.
Don’t talk about what you did yesterday, this is not a reporting moment where everyone tries to look busy. Rather, kickstart the day with some bonding, solve anything blocking and share future plans so people can plan and act and ultimately save time.
The Remote Manifesto, GitLab
What they basically say is that the Daily Stand-ups aren’t your snooze-fest status updates; they’re a chance to bond, tackle blockers, and gaze into the crystal ball of the future. They still advise on its “dailiness” though.
As of late 2020 even the Scrum Guide chilled out and stopped prescribing in any way how to do the Daily Scrum. It finally ditched the already optional three questions. You’re free, my friends, so toss those questions into the fire and reinvent your standup!
Why not daily?
In the good old office days, the daily get-together marked the official start of our workday. It was like the workplace’s drumroll, it had a symbolic meaning.
Fast forward to today’s remote work revolution — we’re all marching to our own beat. Different time zones and daily routines make it more of a hassle than a solution. Still, I don’t say it can’t be done.
But more importantly, has anyone joined a random team’s Daily Scrum recently? Well, I have. Since the start of the pandemic, I worked with over fifty teams in different companies. And I have to say I rarely see that they need that meeting every single day.
Especially if they do the “What I did yesterday” round. Are your days so eventful that you have to meet each day to report on them? Sometimes you can almost see the smoke coming out of their ears when they try to recall what they did the day before. Spoiler alert: they usually can’t, so they sprinkle in some random… err, meaningful stuff. Everybody suffers.
Remember, I’ve been a nomad in the corporate wilderness, wandering through fifty teams and counting. Behold, the creative ways some of those teams tackled their Daily Scrum.
1. “I’m here to work, not to make friends” teams
Some teams don’t appreciate the weekend stories or family sagas. They’re the no-nonsense kind, who show up for work to tackle the tasks and shut their laptops.
Are they really teams? Probably not, rather a bunch of people working together. Should we insist on converting them into a highly collaborative bunch in the Kumbaya circle? They deliver results, the company’s thrilled, and as for the clients, well, that’s another chapter. This has been the way they worked for years. Are we disruptors or facilitators here?
These teams had their remote standups three times per week. The Friday one was more of a weekly check-in. They’re cool with it, just not big on chitchat.
2. Small team, big tasks
Then there’s the Data Engineering crew, small but mighty, around five folks, all remote. And guess what? They’re not daily meeting enthusiasts. Their tasks usually took more than two days to accomplish. A stand-up two times a week, plus a sprinkle of refinement, suits them just fine.
3. The Leaders Daily
Up next there’s the “Team Leads Daily” ensemble. They try to mimic team meetings and have their own daily leadership gathering, like a Scrum of Scrums. You would think the leaders would be more disciplined and you won’t hear there “I was in a meeting with my manager and then I had an interview with a Developer”. Nope, they’re even more prone to “I had meetings upon meetings” syndrome.
When you listen to them closely you might notice that they don’t really need those meetings every day because there’s no daily earth-shattering updates. Plus, we will always have Slack.
Surprise plot twist: The Team Leads infiltrated the team’s daily, turning it into a prep session for their reports.
Guess what? We did a Retro on it, and cut those leadership meetings from five to two times a week, and nobody blinked.
4. The cool async team
Then there’s the unicorn, the “Async Team.” These efficiency champs despise meetings full stop. They’ve got a Slack channel for daily updates, custom-crafted like a good IPA. Some spill the beans in the AM, while others spill right before clocking out — depends on the psychological safety that they feel.
I met teams who refused to send updates before shutting the laptop for the day out of fear of being judged by the management on what time they finish their work.
But let’s get back to their updates. What do they actually write? They’re not just throwing words around; they’ve got a format:
- What’s worth sharing?
- Who needs feedback?
- Who do you need help from?
If you want the full scoop, read xmtp labs article, “Goodbye Standups, Hello Wrap-Ups: Rethinking Team Alignment for Asynchronous, Remote Work.”
Some of those teams don’t skip the face-to-face meeting altogether, they just have it less frequently and mainly to bond and discuss some bigger issues.
5. The A team
These folks are the chatty, daily-bonding, walk-the-board aficionados. After their regular daily, they delve into the “Parking Lot” topics, but it’s not mandatory, so folks can peace out if they want. Joining their meetings was always a blast— and they love it! That’s why they keep it daily.
The habits die hard. We were trained to report the status on a daily basis, and that’s a tough habit to break. That’s why the three questions are so hard to let go of. It’s like we hit autopilot mode and forget that we’re the pilots, with the power to inspect and adapt the practices to our own unique circumstances.
To me, the post-Scrum era is the “I do what works for me” era. No more copy-pasting frameworks. I’m not saying we should outlaw daily meetings, but maybe it’s time to let teams pick their own frequency. The Scrum Guide says that the teams are self-managing and they own this meeting. So let’s trust the teams to figure it out themselves.
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