10 tips to improve your Agile daily stand-ups

large daily stand up

The text books will tell you to ask each attendee at the stand-up three questions – what did you do yesterday, what are you doing today and what are your impediments? Although this is a great format to get you started with Agile ways of working it is by no means the best approach to daily stand-ups. If you want to inject pace, focus and energy into your daily stand-ups then it’s time to switch your format to a more Kanban style daily stand-up.

Here are ten things you can do differently to improve your daily stand-up:

  1. Walk the wall from right to left. Focus on the work, not each other. That is, starting at your right most column on the board and working left. For each card on the board ask the question “how can we get this card moved to the right?”. Too many teams treat the daily stand-up as a status update. Instead, the daily stand-up should be about problem solving. If you have less work in progress then this should make for a slick stand-up.
  2. Look right or down before looking left. That is, when you’ve completed a card on the board, first look right or in your current column to see if you can help anyone else finish their work. If you’ve exhausted all avenues to help finish work, only then should you look left to start more work.
  3. Gather in close around the card wall. Don’t be shy. If you can’t see the detail on the cards then you’re too far away. Get in close and jostle for position if needed. ok so this is great pre-covid but what about remote? All attendees at the stand-up should attend via Zoom/Teams/Skype. One person should share their screen and use their mouse pointer to guide everyone across the board and facilitate the stand-up.
  4. Come prepared. Make sure you’ve updated the board before the daily stand-up, not during.
  5. Focus on unblocking blocked work. Summon the necessary people required to unblock a card to the daily stand-up so they can see the impact they’re having on the team.
  6. Blockers with unblock ETA. If a blocker has an ETA date for unblocking (days or weeks) in the future, do you really need to have a repeat discussion about the blocker everyday?
  7. Use green arrows to show movement. When someone in the team moves a card on the board, stick a green arrow icon on it. As the day goes on, more and more arrows should appear on the board. Then, at the daily stand-up you will see a nice clear summary of movement over the previous day. At the end of the daily stand-up “reset” the board be removing all the green arrows. External stakeholders to the team particularly like this feature as it gives them real feel of progress. Post covid, you might use tags instead and configure your tool to show tags on cards. In Azure DevOps you can set colors per tag.
  8. Board admin. At the end of the daily stand-up, the person who facilitated it is responsible for tidying up the wall, i.e. remove or update tags, and sync the physical card wall with the electronic board if you’re using this.
  9. Review Goals. Whatever goals you have in place, it’s really important to keep these at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
  10. Get each team member to take a turn facilitating the daily stand-up. This stops any one person dominating the stand-up. Rotate daily. If you’re just starting out with daily stand-ups then you might want to hold off on this until you get into the swing of things.

Once you’ve made the switch to Kanban style daily stand-ups you’ll instantly see the benefits and value in this alternative approach and never look back. Let’s focus on that work!

About Ian Carroll

Ian is a consultant, coach, trainer and speaker on all topics related to Lean, Kanban and Agile software development.

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1 thought on “10 tips to improve your Agile daily stand-ups”

  1. Thank you Ian.
    The visual affect of daily movements made should be a good motivator to the team, because individually I’ve experienced some/most don’t have much interest if Fred, for instance, did this yesterday and doing the other today – but that’s a whole new thread.
    Back to the board, I like the idea of green arrows as a motivator and also as a replanning factor – the less green arrows showing probably would indicate too many tasks are too large and taking longer to progress forward, therefore not helping stakeholders see progress.
    Cheers Andy

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