The Agile Series

Staying In Sync

A guide to running daily standups

When you're running multiple projects and trying to win new business, staying in sync with your teams and your clients can be a major challenge. There are only so many hours in the day. But, keeping everyone in sync is essential to keeping projects and the business on track. So then, what is the best way to provide everyone with the information they need to keep things running smoothly?

For years, the industry has relied on the trusty daily log to help with this. While in some situations these are required for regulations and safety, it is far from ideal for most situations. It’s too easy for the daily log to become nothing more than a CYA for everyone submitting one.

What if you used a technique that flips the daily log on its head? Instead of asking people to submit written reports, what if you captured everyone's updates together, as a group, in an efficient and transparent forum?

In a previous post, I wrote about an Agile ritual called Sprint Planning, which is a time tested way to plan short, focused periods of productivity. Daily standups are a way to keep your teams productive and the information flowing through quick, daily meetings that keep everyone laser focused on the right things.

Daily Standups Overview

If a daily meeting sounds like a waste of your time – don’t worry. Just because these meetings happen more frequently doesn’t mean that they’re going to take up a bigger chunk of your time. In fact, they’re meant to shorten the amount of time you spend in meetings. Just 15 minutes a day can save you from hours of phone calls, texts, and emails.

Here’s your checklist to implement effective daily standups:

  • Assign a facilitator: this might be the Sprint Leader, or it might be someone else within the team. However, it is important to empower a single person to own the scheduling, facilitation, and follow ups for your standups.
  • Commit to consistency: Stand-ups should be held in the same location (physical or virtual) and at the same time each day – ideally in the morning, to help set the context for the coming day's work. These meetings should be kept to 15 minutes, which is why they’re called standing meetings (you should be able to comfortably stand throughout the whole thing).
  • Set your purpose: It’s important to note that the daily standup meeting is not for problem-solving or issue resolution. Instead, each person answers the following three questions:
  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any impediments in your way?
  • Clear any impediments: Standups are where impediments are surfaced, but not where they are resolved. So, it is imperative that the Sprint Leader work to resolve any and all impediments as quickly as possible following each standup to allow the team to continue making progress.
  • Distribute the information: Assign someone to be the scribe and to capture in writing a brief summary of everyone’s updates, Then, share the notes out to everyone on the team after the meeting.

“By focusing on what each person accomplished yesterday and will accomplish today, the team gains an excellent understanding of what work has been done and what work remains,” explains software entrepreneur Mike Cohn.

“It is not a status update meeting in which a boss is collecting information about who is behind schedule. Rather, it is a meeting in which team members make commitments to each other.”

Once Daily Standups are in place, you might be wondering – how do you know if you met all your goals for a Sprint, or how to improve on the process next time? Read the remaining posts in this series on Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospectives for construction to learn more.