January 2010


The classic co-located team is always the the best option. This set-up is not always feasible and distributed virtual team is used instead. There are a number of challenges for virtual teams:

The benefits to Agile virtual teams don’t come without corresponding challenges. These include:

  • Juggling time zones to accommodate mutual meeting times
  • Challenges to building trust; teams may question the approach of other teams
  • Lack of an understanding of the business drivers
  • Cultural differences between team members or entire teams
  • Lack of coordination, which can potentially result in redundancy of developed modules
  • Disjointed communications or inadequate teleconference etiquette

via SEI Quarterly | Turn on a Dime: Leveraging Agile Development with Virtual Teams.

My name is Henrik Larsson and I interviewing Jason Yip, Agile/Lean consultant at ThoughWorks.

Q: Jason, can you tell me a little bit about the article “It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns of Daily Stand-up Meetings” and why you wrote it?

From what I recall, the initial trigger was Phillip Laplante’s article about why he hated standup meetings. When I read it, it reminded me of the dysfunctions I had been seeing in how people were doing daily stand-ups. It seems like such a simple practice and yet I was repeatedly seeing it done wrong, or at least sub-optimally. I figured it was worth trying to address this by publishing something that people could use as a reference and point others to. The article was my attempt to gather the state of the art in thinking and practice about how do stand-ups well.

Q: Why do you think Daily Stand-ups are so powerful?

At a minimum, it gets people talking to each other which is actually a big deal in many places. Beyond the minimum, a well-run standup is very effective at exposing problems. Of course, what happens after problems are detected is even more important.

Q: When did you first read or hear about stand-up meetings?

This was back in 1999 or 2000 when learning about Extreme Programming. I don’t remember exactly but it was probably the Portland Pattern Repository (i.e., the original wiki) where I first read about it.

Q: Has your view on Daily Stand-ups changed during these years?

Yes, definitely. I used to see it more about status. Then I shifted to see it more about commitment, mainly due to Mike Cohn’s writings. These days, I see it as more about problem-solving. My current preference is much more strongly toward a “walk-the-board” style of stand-up when a task / story board is available. I tend to emphasise much more the importance of focusing on completing work versus just people trying to be busy.

Having said that, there are still some aspects that haven’t changed over the years, such as the importance of keeping the ritual high-energy and being about sharing with the team versus reporting to
a leader.

Q: VersionOne just recently published the results from “State of Agile Survey 2009”. The survey shows that Daily Stand-up is the second most popular agile technique. Why do you think stand-up meetings are so popular?

Perhaps a cynical answer but I would say because it seems easy to do.

Q: What single thing do you think is most important to get right for a team using Daily Stand-up meetings? Why?

Understand why you’re doing the stand-up. You’re sharing information so that the whole team can achieve their objective. If this is not clear, then you’re really just wasting time.

Q: The classic three questions (What did?/What will?/Impediments?) is the basic agenda of Daily Stand-up meetings. Many teams are improving and customizing these meetings. Have you seen any customizations that could be beneficial for many other teams?

The “walk-the-board” style is something that many teams should consider trying. In general, have the work items (i.e., user stories) ask the questions rather than the people. What happened to the story yesterday? What is going to happen to the story today? What is impeding the story from progressing?

The Daily Scrum Meeting is the primary meeting for team members (chickens) in Scrum. Do you think that this technique could successfully be used outside the software development community? Where and how?

Short, daily meetings are already used outside the software development community. For example, most Lean environments have been using them before the concept became popular in software development
circles. I don’t see anything particularly software development specific about daily stand-ups.

Rupen Sharma has some suggestions how to conduct virtual daily Scrum meetings:

Daily SCRUM Meetings are usually held in a meeting room with whiteboards. In the meeting room, team members stand during the meeting. However, nowadays it is very common for teams to be geographically dispersed. In such cases, you should use web conferencing tools, such as WebEx and Citrix Online, to have more effective meetings. These tools are essential for managing an Agile team that is geographically dispersed. Through the use of web conferencing tools, you can share other agile project management tools, such as plans, virtually. This means everyone, regardless of their physical geography, can view the same plan at the same time.

via Conducting the Daily SCRUM Meeting as an Agile Project Management Tool.

Sterling Bartin wrote:

Meet Carrie pretend that is her real name. The team she is part of is “sort of” collocated. Most of them occupy a portion of a massive cube farm that makes collaboration a one or two person event at a time. The Daily Stand-Up meeting is not a sit-down and lasts about a half-hour. On the other hand, they joke and laugh and have a good time for about 15 minutes before settling into the real purpose of the meeting.

Don’t forget that you must build your team by having fun and share common culture (and jokes). If you don’t sit together in a war-room, you may want to extend the daily meeting with a few minutes of having fun.

via Getting Agile » The Daily 15 Minutes of Fun.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evelyn_vancauwenberghe/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Sometimes Daily Scrum Meeting are not working. The meetings don’t release the power of the team get together in a “Scrum”. Jason Yip has described a number of Smells (anti-patterns) in his well-known article about daily meetings.

The feel of an effective stand-up is about how you know when things are going right. Smells are about how you know when things are going wrong. It is important to note that even if you have no smells, this does not mean the stand-up is going right. It just means that it doesn’t “stink”.

Jason have described the following smells:

  • Reporting to the Leader
  • People are Late
  • Stand-up Meeting Starts the Day… Late
  • Observers Interrupt
  • Socializing
  • I Can’t Remember
  • Story Telling
  • Problem Solving
  • Low Energy
  • Obstacles are not Raised
  • Obstacles are not Removed
  • Obstacles are Only Raised in the Stand-up

Please read the full article It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns of Daily Stand-up Meetings for complete descriptions of these smells and patterns how to solve these problems.

We are all familiar with the two types of people in Scrum: Pigs and Chickens.

In reality, people are not always either or. There are sometimes cross-breed of Chickens and Pigs.

  • Chigs are part-time participants who incorrectly view their role as finding problems to derail a project.
  • Piglets are those part-time participants that correctly view their role as making a project successful, even when then are only participating on a part-time basis.

via LitheSpeed’s LitheBlog: Exploring Lean and Agile: Chickens, Chigs, Pigs and Piglets.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/merwing/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Daily Scrum Meeting as a great tool for improving the communication within a team:

Mike Vizdos article in Methods & Tools about The Daily Scrum Meeting.

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