6 Ways To Get More Out Of Your Project Stand-ups

At a recent Scrum event in Portland, I had a good discussion with some fellow project managers from a large local organization on the topic of daily stand-ups (aka the Daily Scrum). They spoke of their lengthy and tiring process and how they wished there were a better way to run them.

Below are six tips to get more, while spending less, on your daily stand-ups.

1. Make them daily

Stand-ups are designed to give the whole team a glimpse into what’s going on with the project. When not held daily, there’s too much material to cover. For example, if you have a team of 7 people who are working eight-hour days on a project, you’ll have 56 total working hours of material to cover in a daily stand-up. Having stand-ups 3 times a week would mean covering 93 working hours for each team member and so on. Things get out of control easily.

2. Actually stand up

Standing will help your meeting to move more efficiently. It’s simple; people don’t like standing still for long periods of time. Especially in a room, in a circle, without their coffee/snacks/music, etc. Make it clear that we’re going to meet for up to 15 minutes and we’re all to remain standing during that time and you’ll see your meeting instantly move more quickly.

3. Be interested or you’re off topic

Generally, stand-ups cover what you did yesterday, what you’re doing today, and any impediments you may have. A good indicator that your stand-up has turned into a working group meeting is that you or another team member have lost interest. Each person’s report should flow rather quickly. Side conversations, suggestions, etc. should be tabled for another meeting after stand-up. This is sometimes called an “after party” meeting.

4. They’re not planning meetings

Are you planning out work at your stand-up? If so, it’s not a stand-up. I’ve joined projects where daily stand-ups were treated as daily planning meetings; taking up to an hour to plan out the day’s work. This more closely resembles a sprint planning meeting for a one-day sprint rather than a daily stand-up. If you have someone who insists on going beyond the three questions of your stand-up, then pull them into an after party and explain what a stand-up is. You can also invite them to your next sprint planning meeting to satisfy their planning desires.

5. Set the tone

If it seems like your stand-ups sometimes struggle to get off to a good start, then lead by example. With new teams you may want to start the stand-up by being the first person to report. You can even place a few people next to you in the circle (if you’re moving in a circle) that are familiar with the procedures to help set the tone. Do this for the first couple weeks. Eventually the team will normalize.

6. 15 minutes or less

Stand-ups shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes for a team of up to 15 people. The larger the team, the more likely you’ll need to have a timekeeper. For teams of 4 people or less I don’t keep time since there’s little risk of going over. For a larger team, say around 10 people, I’ll limit everyone to a minute of speaking time. Once the buzzer goes off, they’re done!

For more information on stand-ups (aka Daily Scrum) check out scrumalliance.org

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