A few years back we sought to mix up our own flavour of agile, looking at the best processes and methodologies to make complex web development projects, with many moving parts and cross-discipline working come together most coherently. It was a move that transformed the way we work, delivering greater visibility for clients, reducing risks on projects and massively enhancing productivity. Within this, there are many core elements, which ensure our agile way focuses on collaboration and quality outputs. Today, we look at the critical 'daily stand-up'.

The daily stand-up meeting (or daily scrum) is a quick meeting that helps the delivery team focus and organise their days.

During the daily stand-up, team members cover three main points:

    - What I completed yesterday
    - What I’ll be working on today
    - Any blockers on my work which I need help with

It is a simple, yet effective way of keeping everything moving and everyone informed. Like any meeting, it can be really easy to let your daily stand-up become just 'another one of those meetings'. Off-track, irrelevant and a waste of people's valuable time. Something there is never enough of in an agile team to begin with!

As the scrum master and agile enforcer for After Digital, I spend my days making sure we’re as agile and productive as possible. So, I've seen the ups and downs and where people have had to be brought along in the process. From this experience, I wanted to share my top tips to maintain good, efficient daily stand-ups:

Step away from the chairs

It’s not called ‘daily stand-up’ for nothing. We spend long enough already sitting in our chairs and in long meetings. Stand-ups should be fast and not go into lots of detail. Personally, I find standing up each morning creates the energy and motivation to organise our day and wrap up in time to get back to our desks and get work underway. Like a rugby scrum team, we stand and huddle at the top of the office, even the dogs come into our daily stand-ups!

JIRA, JIRA, JIRA

JIRA is our preferred project development tracking tool. Whether you use JIRA or another task management board/system, this should be the main focus of your stand-up discussion. The delivery team will have decided which tasks will be completed within the sprint, so it makes sense to focus on these tasks at stand-up. Stand in front of the board and confirm or note down what tickets each team member will be working on that day. It can be too easy to half heartedly stand-up and say “Project A again today…”. So, be specific and ensure others are too. The team need to know you’re on track in the sprint, and your scrum master needs to know your boards are correct and up-to-date.

This is a chance to raise your hand

As well as the three main points we all run through at stand-up, voice any concerns over timelines, budget or task completion here and let your scrum master act immediately. Stand-up is so key to the team to make everyone’s day start well. Nobody will thank you for throwing a concern you had when you walked in this morning at the team in the middle of the working day, trust me.

Short & sweet

Daily stand-ups should be quick - no more than 15 minutes. I’ve been in far too many stand-ups where a conversation was initiated that didn’t need to occur at this point in time. The rest of the team don’t need to be part of your specific project discussions and nobody thanks the person who takes 10 minutes to have a project discussion during stand-up. If you need a 1-2-1 chat or problem solving discussion with your scrum master, take it ‘offline’ and deal with it after stand-up.

Punctuality is key

Daily stand-ups have a habit of starting late because one or more of the team aren’t ready, including the scrum master. Don’t wait for them! One of my pet hates is turning up on time for a meeting, only to be left waiting while my own time could be used more efficiently. Stand-up is no different to any other meeting. Have it start and finish on time every day and your team will know this isn’t a flexible meeting or an optional one. Wait for them once and you’ll keep waiting for them thereafter.

Distractions, be gone

No phones, laptops or side conversations. It’s far too easy to let people think that stand-up isn’t important by letting any of these things creep in. Keeping the teams focus helps the meeting stay short and on track. It also shows respect for the rest of the team, which is invaluable.

Keep stand-ups fun

Any meeting or daily repetitive task can get boring for the team easily. Stand-ups can be fun and engaging, as well as efficient. Try to introduce some challenges to your daily stand-up. Mix up the order of who speaks, throw in some exercises (planking is a fun way to stop people rambling!) and don’t let it get too serious, you’re setting up the team to have a great and positive day 🙂

It’s not a status update

As aforementioned, it’s far too easy to let your own discussion points take-over a meeting and this wastes other people’s time, as well as being disrespectful to the team. Stand-up isn’t a chance for someone to micromanage. You don’t need to know exactly how many hours someone has tracked, what exact time you’ll see something delivered and you’re not there to plan. I’ve seen too many stand-ups become someone’s chance to manage their diary and it’s a sure fast way to make people disengage. Stay on track.

Keep it relevant to the delivery/scrum team

I know I sound like a broken record now, but stand-ups really are supposed to be quick and painless. If your scrum team is as busy as ours is, every minute counts. Far too many times I hear comments like: "I went to a completely unrelated event yesterday and will now spend 5 minutes telling you about it”; “I was in sprint planning for several hours”; “I’ll be doing my timesheets” or “later I’ll be having a sprint review with client X”. We know this and we’ll probably be in the meeting/s with you. If it’s not related to your daily tasks, leave it out of stand-up, even if your daily chat lasts half the time of the team.

Gratitude goes a long way

A good scrum team have each others backs and positive affirmation keeps team morale and respect levels high. If someone in the team has helped you out, done you or your project a favour, then tell them! It’s too easy to assume and forget the small things. Take a minute to thank your colleague/s for going above and beyond for you and let them know they made a difference.

Hopefully, you’re as lucky as me and have a great and supportive team by your side each day. Thank your team and ensure they can feel the value of these meetings as much as you do. That's the key to long-term success.