Daily Stand-up Meetings – Perhaps the third question should go first?

It is about 10 years since the first time I participated in a project using daily stand-up meeting. I was immediately fascinated. Since then I have always encouraged development teams to do daily stand-up meetings and to get rid of the traditional weekly status meeting.

Modern software development is about taking advantage of the fact that most often you have a group of very intelligent and capable individuals working together as a team. Given accurate information developers will know what is the right thing to do for the project to succeed. Given enough freedom (this is often forgotten) the developers will also be able to do the right thing. The daily stand-up meeting is an effective mechanism for making sure that everybody on the team have enough information to do the right thing.

There are a lot of formats for running the daily stand-up meeting (ref). But common for most of them is that everybody on the team should answer three questions in this particular order:

1. Did?
2. Will Do?
3. Impediments?

Sometimes I observe stand-up meetings where the third question is skipped. Nobody in the team mentions anything about problems, hindrance, obstacles or anything that impedes their work. It is very unlikely that this is true. In a software project there is always something that can be improved to speed up the team.

Actually, of the three questions, the third question is by far the most important in a daily stand-up meeting. The “Did?” and “Will do?” question is also important, but the information is often also available in the software repository and the task bord. Apart from the daily stand-up meeting, there is often no formal mechanism for making sure that everybody knows about what slows down the team.

Therefore, I propose that we should order the questions according to their importance. Allow me to suggest that in the daily stand-up meeting the team members should answer the following questions:

1. Any impediments in your way?
2. What are you working on today?
3. What have you finished since yesterday?

2 Responses to Daily Stand-up Meetings – Perhaps the third question should go first?

  1. Anders says:

    Good idea, it could be a idea to couple this to another technique.

    Create a place on the wall where everyone can hang a post-it of everything that slows them down during the day (also referred to as a waste snake by many). If the build is slow, post-it. If you absolutely can’t get hold of another person, post-it. Ever time something annoys you, post-it.

    This of course requires some point of reflection (hopefully frequent), but at that point you can focus on the annoyances that has the most post-it notes. Even if they are small they can cost you a lot if they occur often.

    This can lower the bar for “complaining” ;). In the standup you tend to focus on the larger issues at the moment, and depending on who’s taking notes or whatever issues will be forgot/neglected.

  2. I think whether the 1 and 2 questions already have answers elsewhere depends strongly on the project and team. If these aren’t present then question 3 will need to come last to set the context.

    Isn’t it also up to the Scrum Master (or equivalent) to make sure this issue is addressed in stand-ups and if not addressed to pick it up in a retrospective?

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