One of the foundational pillars of agile methodologies is effective communication and collaboration among team members. Daily standup meetings (or dailies) in Scrum, or standup meetings in Kanban, are key practices for maintaining team alignment and fostering information sharing. However, a common antipattern can arise, where these valuable sessions devolve into mere status updates or even report sessions for higher-ups.
Identifying the Issue
Case 1: Status Update Syndrome
In this scenario, team members often fall into a routine of providing robotic updates, such as “Yesterday, I worked on tasks; today, I will continue with tasks.” This approach undermines the purpose of the standup, which is to encourage collaboration, identify blockers, and facilitate collective problem-solving.
Case 2: Reporting Session Takeover
Another variant is when higher-ups participate and inadvertently (or deliberately) start micromanaging the meeting, shifting the focus from team collaboration to direct reporting.
The consequences are Harmful for the Team and the Company.
Firstly, a Lack of Collaboration Appears: When team members solely discuss their individual tasks, the potential for collaboration and knowledge sharing diminishes. A lack of collaboration often results in lower performance, which can lead to reduced profits for the company.
Next, Blockers Go Unnoticed: Team members may avoid sharing challenges, fearing negative perceptions. This prevents the collective resolution of impediments. Consequently, developers delve deeper into their issues (instead of seeking help), which can result in the company losing money.
Later, Such Broken Standups or Dailies Lead to Reduced Engagement: When standups lack value, engagement wanes as participants see them as routine and unengaging. This can be the first step toward employee boredom or burnout. It’s a small step away from losing not only money but also talented staff.
Turning it Around
To break free from this antipattern, consider these approaches:
- Encourage Engagement: Focus standups on sprint goals rather than individual tasks. Discuss how each team member’s work contributes to the broader objectives.
- Highlight Blockers: Encourage team members to openly discuss challenges. Addressing impediments collectively promotes a sense of shared responsibility.
- Manage Reporting to Bosses: If higher-ups attend, guide the conversation back to team interaction. Use summaries for stakeholders and prioritize collaborative discussion.
Improving the Standup
There are few things you can change, no matter if you are in the role of a software developer or a Scrum Master.
Break the Routine: Change the structure of standups to align with objectives. Discuss sprint goals first, followed by additional tasks. Alternatively, mix up the order periodically to keep engagement high or even have different team members lead the standup to keep the meeting dynamic. Or even break the routine with a quick game, like Scrum Taboo.
Don’t Read JIRA, Be Proactive: Avoid recounting what’s already clear in the project management tool. Focus on updates that offer valuable insights or potential for collaboration.
Add visual aids and set the time limit: Use visual boards or diagrams during the standup to make updates more engaging and visual plus set a strict time limit to ensure everyone’s contribution remains concise and impactful.
By implementing these strategies or anything from this list, teams can transform their standups into dynamic, engaging sessions that drive collaboration, problem-solving, and ultimately, successful agile practices.
Effective standups are the lifeblood of agile teams. Avoiding the broken standup antipattern involves encouraging meaningful engagement, focusing on collaboration, and addressing challenges collectively. By fostering a culture of open communication and shared ownership, teams can make the most of these crucial meetings and drive successful agile practices.