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The Art of the Daily Stand-up

In the world of Agile development, the daily stand-up, or scrum call, is the heartbeat of the team. It’s a brief but vital meeting where team members synchronize their efforts and set the course for the day. However, not all scrum calls are created equal. Let’s explore the dos and don'ts of a successful scrum call through a tale of two teams.
Teamwork | Collaboration

The Good

Being an all-remote team, team Alpha gathers virtually at 9:00 AM using their video conferencing tool. The atmosphere is professional yet friendly, with team members eager to start the day. The Scrum Master, Priya, starts the meeting with a smile, setting a positive tone for the discussion.

Alex: "Yesterday, I completed the integration testing for Feature X. Today, I'll start work on User Story Y."

Mei (chiming in): "I noticed a potential issue with the UI design for Feature X. I can work with the design team to address it before it becomes a bottleneck."

Emily: "I've identified a bottleneck in the database queries. I'll collaborate with Mei to optimize them."

Mei: "I've finalized the acceptance criteria for Feature Z. Planning to review them with the team after the stand-up."

Raj: "I worked on a performance improvement ticket and right now need help with functional testing before I hotfix the changes into QA."

Alex (offering help): "I can test that for you."

 

The meeting wraps up in 13 minutes, well within the allotted time. The team disperses, armed with clear priorities and a shared understanding of the day's objectives.


The Bad

In a parallel universe, team Beta with same team compositions, on the other hand, struggles with their remote daily stand-up. The meeting is scheduled for 9:00 AM, but team members join late, causing delays. When they finally begin, the tone is rushed, and some team members seem disengaged.


Alex: "Yesterday, I completed the integration testing for Feature X. Today, I'll start work on User Story Y."

Priya (joining late): "Apologies for being late. What did I miss?"

Raj: "Nothing much, only Alex shared the updates.”

Priya: “Ohh OK. Who goes next?”

Raj: “I can go. I worked on a performance improvement ticket and right now need help with functional testing before I hotfix the changes into QA."

Priya: "OK. Thanks, Raj."

Emily: "Sorry for joining late, I've identified a bottleneck in the database queries." (And she continues with the details of the identified bottleneck before Mei can share her updates.)

 

The stand-up drags on for almost 30 minutes, as discussions go off track and into detailed technical debates. By the end, team members are unsure of their priorities, and the meeting feels more like a chore than a valuable sync-up.


Analysis: The good and bad daily stand ups

In the good example, Team Alpha demonstrates a well-organized and efficient remote scrum call. Here's why it works:

  • Prompt Start and Participation: The team starts on time, and everyone actively participates, providing concise updates. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and aware of each other's progress.

  • Proactive Issue Resolution: Mei identifies a potential issue with the UI design and offers to address it. This proactive approach to problem-solving ensures that potential bottlenecks are addressed early, maintaining the team's progress.

  • Collaboration and Support: When Raj requests help with functional testing, Alex immediately offers to assist. This demonstrates a culture of collaboration and support within the team, helping to overcome obstacles and move tasks forward efficiently.

  • Efficient Meeting Duration: The meeting concludes within the allotted time of 13 minutes, indicating that updates were delivered succinctly and any necessary discussions were kept brief and focused.


In contrast, Team Beta's remote scrum call faces several challenges:

  • Late Joining and Disruption: Several team members join late, causing delays and disrupting the flow of the meeting. This can lead to confusion and a lack of alignment among team members.

  • Lack of Engagement: Some team members, including the Scrum Master, seem disengaged or unprepared. This can result in a lack of focus and a failure to address important updates or issues.

  • Respect for Updates: When Raj responds with, 'Nothing much, only Alex shared the updates', this dismissive remark shows a lack of respect for Alex's contributions and can create a negative atmosphere within the team.

  • Extended Duration and Off-Topic Discussions: The meeting drags on for almost 30 minutes, well beyond the intended duration. Discussions went off track and become overly detailed, indicating a lack of discipline in keeping the meeting focused on the most important updates and issues.

  • Priority Confusion: With late joiners and disjointed updates, team members may leave the meeting unsure of their priorities for the day, leading to potential delays and inefficiencies in their work.


Overall, the good example highlights the importance of a well-structured and disciplined approach to scrum calls, focusing on concise updates, proactive issue resolution, collaboration, and efficient meeting management.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a well-executed scrum call can set the tone for a productive day, fostering collaboration and alignment within the team. By adhering to the principles of respect, focus, engagement, and ownership, teams can elevate their daily stand-ups from mundane meetings to valuable rituals that drive success.


A team
Scrum call over a video conference

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Excellent read!

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Thank you!

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