What is a Stand-up Meeting (Daily Scrum)?

The Benefits and Drawbacks

The Concept of a Stand-up Meeting

To keep a workplace meeting short and efficient you all need to stand up. You know, physically stand up not just when it’s your turn to talk. And, you don’t stand up for more than a quarter of an hour. Why does the smart soccer manager keep his players on their feet when a game is about to go into extra time? It keeps his players sharp and focused on what’s happening, what’s about to happen, and anything that could stop him getting the result he wants which is, needless to say, a win. Describing the basic concept of a Stand-up Meeting could be as simple as that.

It’s a daily team-meeting, these days called a Daily Scrum, which ideally takes place at the same time each morning when minds are clear, ideas are fresh and you need to get enthusiasm amongst your players to its peak. Team members need to be asked and need to answer three key questions in a Scrum – What did you achieve yesterday? What do you hope to achieve today? Is there anything stopping you from hitting your targets for the day?

The object is for all the team members to make commitments to each other and to keep everyone focused on sprint goals. In addition, the aim is to repeatedly create new sprint plans within fixed time spans within a project, not to create new long-term plans.

When and Where the Daily Scrum is held?

Ideally, the Daily Scrum is held at the same time and the same place every morning because consistency is essential. Besides creating a sense of familiarity, regularity and continuity amongst the participants, in which they’ll undoubtedly feel more comfortable and more likely to contribute appropriately, it also promotes optimum attendance levels. Barring extreme external factors, nobody really has much of an excuse not to be there. The venue should be secluded to avoid unnecessary interruptions, free of seating (with the notable exception of accommodating members with physical difficulties) in order to keep everyone on their feet, and comprehensively equipped with relevant project management tools, such as a Kanban Board, providing visual results and targets in a chronological order.

Who Uses a Daily Scrum?

Traditionally a term used in development methodologies, the Daily Scrum is in fact a very relevant communication tool for a wide range of organizations. It is applicable to any company running a new short-term project and also, arguably, compliments the ongoing operation of many different operations and businesses both new and established. Think again about the smart soccer manager analogy and the value of those three key questions above. Not just his defense, midfield and attack can contribute to the flow of information but also his coaching staff and himself. Each group is doing something different and is expecting to face further difficulties but the final result for the team is what really matters. That flow of information around that whole team can provide ideas on the optimum way forward.

Who Should Participate and What are they Doing?

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All team members should be at the Daily Scrum but if one or two are absent (in the soccer team scenario; one player has been injured and one sent off), the team meeting still goes ahead because, ultimately, the team and the final result are more important than one or two individual players, however important they may be. Because the Scrum is a daily opportunity for communication between everyone each team member should be given the opportunity to contribute. Therefore, all individuals are active in the transfer of information within the project. Namely, they report back on what has been done since the last meeting (the morning before), what they expect to have achieved by the next meeting and any foreseeable problems which could impede their aims for the day.

The Product Owner and Scrum Master Duties in the Daily Scrum

Besides the team players, two other people participate; the Product Owner and the Scrum Master and these are described as Agile roles. Let’s move away from the soccer field and go to a chess game.The Product Owner is the King and the Scrum Master is the Queen. The former is the Boss whose interests and well-being are everyone’s concern whereas the latter is the controller, in effect the playmaker if we bounce back again to the soccer field.

Although it’s a team game, the Scrum Master may in fact be considered to be the most important player and hence needs the right character and usually certified training. His role is considered to be the catalyst in the Daily Scrum. Regulating meetings, solving problems highlighted or delegating responsibilities to internal or external departments is all part of the job. He or she doesn’t have to be within the management hierarchy but someone who has the natural traits or trained abilities for this critical position.

The Scrum Master is also “Mr Motivator”, you know the one in the team who not only coordinates but also keeps spirits up when times get hard. Organizations sometimes decide to exclude him from the game claiming that a sole person can combine the two roles, but such a case will be doubting the norms of Agile & Scrum.

It’s not just the team who can be there. A complete Scrum can, and ideally should, include interested parties from other departments within an organization. Although these people are observers rather than participants, it is often critical where, for example, an advertising department is fully up to date as to where in a production cycle a new product is. There are usually direct timescale effects on them.

And some Friendly Advice

Hey! And one last thing on the who, who and what subject. We all know that you are a software developer, so you’re obviously buried deep in the Cyberworld of the early 21st Century, but everyone needs to have their cell phone turned off just once a day for the short 15 minutes of the Daily Scrum. This is a face-to-face communication process and therefore demands direct human involvement and interaction.

What are the Benefits of the Daily Scrum?

  1. The key benefit of the Scrum is that people from different departments within the same company, working on the same project with the same team goal actually get together once a day in a semi-formal/formal environment. It sounds simple but really, does this happen in many workplaces or organizations?
  2. It’s also the Scrum’s time factor and the culture of a stand-up meeting. Being on your feet for 15 minutes should mean you are physically and mentally sharp, focused and involved. The latter, involvement, and involvement on a regular daily basis is another major positive. It could be argued very forcibly that a 15 minute stand up meeting once a day is far more productive in any operation than a one and a half hour sit-down meeting once a week. And, how many organizations still use the latter technique, usually late on a Friday afternoon when minds are winding down and are thinking of the weekend ahead?
  3. In frequently changing projects the Scrum has clear advantages since it re-evaluates the fluidity of any particular project. Let’s go back to that soccer match again. The score is 1-1, the 90 minutes have finished and there are 30 minutes extra time to go. A couple of hours ago your team had a sure-fire game plan to win but many variables have now altered that. You’ve lost two key players from your team and your opponents are not playing the system you had originally envisaged. If things stay like this, you’re probably going to lose. You need to adapt and you need input from those directly involved to achieve that. Hence, it particularly suits projects that are rapidly and constantly changing.
  4. The regularity of the Scrum may seem negative in nature but, in fact, repetition is a basic component of agile processes. It is seen in a positive way since small problems ultimately lead to big problems.
  5. The Daily Stand-up meeting is not the be-all and end-all. Since the level of detail discussed needs to be minimal, as it’s not relevant to every team member, the Scrum leads to follow-up meetings between team members involved in particular segments of a project. This post-Scrum collaboration amongst self-managed teams cooperating together and sharing information is again a fundamental of agile processes.
  6. One person reports at a time in an organized manner controlled by the Scrum Master. A completely different approach than in a traditional meeting where, undoubtedly, the flamboyant characters, a Cristiano Ronaldo if we were back at the soccer match, tend to hold centre stage.
  7. Not only is it a verbal meeting but also a visual one. The task board giving specific updates adds optical information and stimuli to team members.
  8. Last but not least, organizing a Daily Scrum is not really that difficult. Simplicity in most things in life almost always leads to better results. Focus on running a more effective stand-up and keep it away from the waterfall trap.

What are the Drawbacks of the Daily Scrum?

In theory, the Scrum is a powerful organizational tool because of the points stated above. But, as with everything, it could be argued that there are negatives.

  1. We are all human and we all have different human traits. In time, the regularity of the stand-up meeting can lead some team members to a sense of indifference and boredom. Reporting so regularly on what you’ve achieved and what you hope to achieve may become an unwanted chore. Similarly, it may lead to demotivation issues amongst some players. Those who for whatever reason cannot consistently reach their daily targets may begin to feel inferior and isolated from the rest of the team. Therefore, it is really important to identify why your daily scrum might be boring and refocus immediately on the purpose of the meeting.
  2. There are practical problems too. Is the Scrum Master powerful enough to control the wayward participants who are talking, maybe not listening and concentrating or just feeling that little bit too comfortable? Are all the staff confident enough to speak in front of their peers? Do some team members feel that it’s not a positive project management tool but a daily review of their contribution to the organization? And, what about those late arrivals? Do you go over everything again because someone inadvertently missed the start time? Scrum Mastering, is a critical element but not too many personalities can really achieve that.
  3. The Product Owner could be a problem too. He or she ought to be encouraged to be at the meeting, but do they get involved when they should theoretically be a passive participant? Although, it should be noted that different agile method theorists differ on this subject, namely on the role of the Product Owner. But, perhaps more importantly, do some team members end up feeling subservient because the “boss is there”?
  4. Another drawback is how well sub-meetings afterwards are conducted and whether they achieve quality results. As well as the Scrum may have gone, you may not have such cooperation and positive outcomes from these follow-up discussions.
  5. Maybe worst of all, in some literary texts the Daily Scrum is referred to as “Roll Call”, namely the roll call that kids had at High School each morning particularly back in the 1970s. In essence, this undoubtedly creates a feeling of something which is outdated, childish, and almost terrorizing. Although we’re talking about the disadvantages rather than solutions to the problems, it’s worth mentioning that online Scrums may be a cure to these phenomena.

Time to Go to Work

So, the team members have reported on their achievements, stated their aims, highlighted potential problems, and the Scrum master has done his bit. It’s all taken about the same time as a break in a soccer match. It’s got its good points, it’s got its bad, but the Scrum is over and everyone should be far better equipped. Let’s go now and win this game!