It was roughly nine years ago when I attended my first official Scrum Daily Standup. I among my four teammates went to our manager office at 10 in the morning. After 10min, when we were done, I felt it was useless. Since then (almost) in every company I worked at, we had some kind of daily standup. Except for a few times, I never enjoyed being in a standup. Usually, standup is the first thing a company/team starts with when they decide to adapt to Scrum or any variation of Agile methodology. Honestly, from company perspective, it is the cheapest and less risky part of Scrum. Just 5 minute per day. Any implementation of Scrum Daily Standup I’ve experienced so far was kind of a failure, most of the time partially and sometimes completely. I, as an observer of all these failures, asked myself every time, after every standup, what needs to be changed? Until 5 months ago, when I learned how a standup suppose to be.

2 Years Ago: When I read that book

Until 2 years ago, everything I knew about Scrum and Agile methodology I had learned from non-original resources. 2 years ago, accidentally, I found this book in a small abandon library in my previous workplace:

It explains Scrum, in the purest form. If you want to learn or re-learn Scrum, it’s a must-read. What is my most important takeaway from this book? Scrum is a mindset which you build and the rest (backlog, standup, planning, retrospective, … ) comes after that. They are all inevitable results of this mindset. If you build this mindset, organically, gradually, over course of time, in search of solutions for natural problems your team struggles with, through process of customization, you invite them again and one day you realize you have been doing standup, backlog/sprint planning and retrospective, may under different names. You don’t know since when. But you invented them again and customized them according to your needs and have been using them to become and stay agile. I believe this the biggest mistake people make when they try to adapt to Scrum. They start from tools to get to mindset. But it’s the other way around:

5 months ago: Such a pleasure

It’s was my first standup in the new company. I liked it. I enjoyed. After that, I felt we are more than a tech/dev team. I felt we are a squad, like how that book describes a scrum team. Every single standup was useful. It helped me to become agile, more flexible, more team-player. But why? What was the difference between the standups we held here with all other standups I’ve been in in the past?

Good Standup, Bad Standup

OK. I don’t have a formula or theory (yet!). The only thing I have is a bunch of signs and flags which I have built my litmus test based on.

A bad standup is like a reporting meeting, where you report to your direct manager or your customer. You talk more about the past and what you have done and less about the future and what you’re going to do. You attend the standup because your manager has asked you. You do it because your customer/manager wants to know more, every day, about the progress. You get bored. If you hadn’t attended it, you wouldn’t have missed anything important.

A good standup is like being in a war room. It all about re-evaluating the situation, re-organizing the team accordingly, and proceed. The ultimate goal is filling each other’s gaps and build a complete team out of incomplete individuals. During a good standup, you hear this kind of sentences a lot:

  • I can pair up with you.
  • I can pick up this task.
  • Can you help me? I know you encountered a similar issue in the past.
  • I know how we can solve it. We can talk about it after the standup.

In a good standup, people talk more about what they are going to do and less about what they have done. You attend it for yourself, for your team, because you’ve experienced how it increases your agility. Even when your manager/customer doesn’t attend standup, you still find it useful and necessary.

Let’s model a standup with a graph. Each node in this graph is a person and we draw a line from A to B if at some point in standup A talks directly to B. This is how a bad standup looks like:

And this is how a good one is:

Fly or Die

Standup is important. If it fails, the whole implementation of Scrum will fail. You can look at it as an indicator. Every day you repeat it. Every day you have the chance to see if your standup is quality or not. If your team has adapted to the agile mindset or not. If you are on the right track or not. This 5min meeting reflects the sprint of your team and how far you are from being an agile, flexible, coherent team.