Agile eXamined: The Daily Standup

by Dan Greenberg

What is a daily stand up?

A daily stand up is a way for a team to come together each day, self-organize, and determine the best way to spend the next 24 hours in pursuit of their current objective. The daily stand up is a high-fidelity coordination, collaboration, and communication ceremony for the team; it is not a status reporting mechanism.

The ceremony is called a “stand up,” because teams will often stand to keep the meeting short.

What is the purpose of the daily stand up?

The purpose of the daily stand up is three-fold:

  • The daily stand up should foster and encourage self-organization. Scrum, XP, and Kanban (three of the most common Agile techniques) all emphasize self-organizing teams and recommend frequent communication to enable it.
  • The daily stand up should provide an opportunity to identify impediments that might put the team’s shared goal at risk. If impediments arise, the team can decide the most effective way to address them, increasing the probability that they will deliver value.
  • The daily stand up should get the team in the habit of communicating face-to-face at least once a day and foster a more empathetic and collaborative environment.

Do we need to have a daily stand up to be an Agile team?

No. Regular daily meetings are often held by Agile teams, but the stand up is a specific implementation of the values and principles in the Agile Manifesto. It is not in those values and principles themselves.

A daily check-in can be a useful tool but there are other ways to meet the intent. For alternatives to a daily stand up, try the following:

  • Start a physical Impediments Board and gather as a team any time someone adds something to it.
  • Borrowing from Toyota, an Andon Cord can be a great way to surface impediments and signal that someone on the team needs help.
  • Information radiators such as Kanban boards and burndown charts give the team a quick visual as to whether they are on track without having to physically meet every day.
  • Some teams sit collocated and naturally communicate face-to-face throughout the day. For them, there is no need to artificially force an extra meeting, though even they can often benefit from a scheduled daily touchpoint.

Considering incorporating a daily stand up into your team’s routine? As with any practice, the best approach is to try it for a few weeks, keep it if it works, and discard it if it doesn’t. Experiment and see what works for you. Hope this has been helpful!

Read more in our Agile eXamined series.