Regular readers will know that I’m not an expert in Agile, by any means. So I’m delighted to bring you this guest contribution by Elisa Cepale who lives and breathes this stuff in her day job. Elisa, over to you…
I facilitate daily standup meetings for our support team. When I started working for White October we followed the conventional “scrum” format, where the team get together, share what’s new, what’s challenging and what’s happening, and everyone gives feedback and makes suggestions to unblock each other.
Int his article, I’ll look at 5 activities you can try in your daily team standup meeting.
In our team, we valued the idea that everyone feels involved and informed, and their contribution is valuable, and the opportunity to re-group as a team once a day.
So far so good, right?
Not really. Because after a few weeks I realized that the energy levels weren’t what they should be for such a creative, innovative agency.
What’s the point of a daily standup meeting?
The purpose of a daily standup meeting, which you will sometimes hear referred to as the daily scrum, is to get together and go over important tasks that are just finishing, or about to start. It’s a way of getting everyone on the same page about priorities.
If you work with Agile methods , you will likely be attending standup meetings every day. Some teams that don’t use Agile still do standups because they are a good way to catch up with everyone, especially on fast-moving projects.
How does a standup meeting work?
The meeting happens daily, and the team meets only briefly. Generally, you go around the room and each person says what they are working on, what they have completed and what their roadblocks are. You can also add ‘parking lot’ tasks for things to discuss once the round-the-room points have been made.
You can tailor what is discussed in a stand up meeting, so if you are working out what to say as the meeting chair, think about what is useful for the team to know.
Oh, and it’s called a standup because you normally have the meeting while standing up! That way people are prompted to be done more quickly. Also, it’s good for you to spend some time standing in the day, and it also means it is easier for people to move around and talk to each other.
There are plenty of benefits to agile meetings , including that this one is over and done with quickly!
Some meeting rooms have the chairs removed precisely so you can meet standing up without the temptation of a chair. Other teams hold their meetings around the Kanban board or whiteboard so everyone can refer to that if they need to.
Who attends the daily standup meeting?
In Scrum, the development team attend the daily standup meeting.
Agile team roles are quite specific, and yet, at the same time, you often find everyone mucking in to get the job done in a multi-skilled team. Depending on your agile team structure , you might choose the attendees at the daily standup differently.
In a formal Scrum team, the development team members are the only mandated people to attend the daily standup. The product owner, Scrum Master and anyone else can attend, but they normally only listen and don’t contribute.
How to make standup meetings interesting
Our projects at the time were interesting; everyone was communicating and sharing ideas. But the traditional scrum format didn’t work for our team and made meetings flat. The team just wanted to get through them and get back to their desks.
We needed to inject some energy. I experimented with a few ideas, to see what worked and what didn’t.
Here are 5 activities we tried to re-energize our project standup meetings, with tips for you to try them with your project teams too.
Activity 1: What made you unhappy yesterday and what will make you happy today?
If you are wondering how to start a standup meeting, try this exercise.
It was a good way to start the day with a positive attitude, tease out team challenges and figure out how to overcome them. It also gave everyone the opportunity to make suggestions, and gave the scrum master visibility of what everyone was working on
Afterwards everyone shared a music track to create a playlist for the day to share with the rest of the agency. This introduced a type of gamification in the daily routine which improved the team communications and engagement.
Try it: You can ask this question in your standups for agile teams. Listen to the answers and see what you can do to act on them. You can also share your favorite tracks!
Activity 2: 360 Degree Appreciation
I had this idea from Funretrospectives , and introduced it to the team the week before Christmas as a fun way to share gifts.
As a team everyone thanked each other for their work and said what they appreciated the most. It was really useful to speak out about why we value each other.
By subconsciously following one of the Fish Philosophy principles of “making someone’s day”, we realized that a little gesture of appreciation can go a long way, especially if it’s reciprocated.
A gesture of appreciation can go a long way especially if it’s reciprocated -> @firstwelove
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Try it: Ask the team what they appreciate about each other and each other’s work. If it’s awkward to say these things out loud, ask your standup attendees to write them down. Then give each colleague a bunch of notes with appreciative comments on!
Activity 3: It’s Monday! Give one positive thing about last week and what are you going to complete today
Starting the week with a positive outlook has become a tradition for our team. On Mondays it can take a while to get into the rhythm, but when we get into the scrum team and reflect on the positive things from the previous week, we begin to interact with each other in a more productive way.
We suddenly realize that we have something to look forward to…
Try it: Ask the team to share one positive thing about last week and what they are going to get done today. This is a good exercise to kick start the week, so opt to do this one on a Monday, or when you are back at work after a long weekend or other break.
Tip: It does help to have someone facilitating these activities so that they actually get done. Whether you are of the school of thought that project managers are an outdated concept in agile teams , or whether your agile team has a project manager, think about designating someone with the role of making standups run smoothly.
Activity 4: If you were a support ticket what would you be?
This one made me laugh!
This was a quick exercise but it triggered us into thinking about ourselves and what we can improve in our approach to work. One of the team members said they would make sure a process is written down before tackling any job.
Constant reviews like this are an essential tool of agile development. No matter how good a team is, a bit of self-criticism opens up opportunities for improvement and self-awareness.
Try it: If you don’t know what to say in a standup meeting, this is a good conversation starter to get people talking! Ask them what support ticket they would be — preferably related to the development you are working on.
You can also try this one when a new team gets together for the first time, or as a team-building activity.
If you are a non-IT team, like a team that uses agile for marketing initiatives , you might find it harder to do this exercise. Think about how you could adapt it to the way your department gets requests for support.
Activity 5: Write a postcard to a former colleague describing your day yesterday
This is a good game too that will harness a positive attitude and have fun at work.
Try it: Get each colleague to write a postcard to someone who has left the team, describing what their day was like yesterday.
If you do this exercise I recommend having a different team member to read the postcard. Hearing what we all wrote helped us to think about it in a less abstract way and remember it better.
It doesn’t matter if people in the standup meeting know who the former colleague was. The point of the conversation is to reflect on how the day went, so you can learn from that and work out what to do differently.
The result? It helps to mix up standup meeting activities
This is what one colleague had to say.
“Scrums feel more energized. Doing the ‘same-old’ each day can become a drag and you go into the scrums with the same mindset, now we don’t know what task/questions will be asked.”
Adam, junior developer
As a result of these activities, our team has grown stronger and more enthusiastic. We appreciate the importance of getting together once per day to check progress and issues but also understand that this ceremony can be much more engaging.
I now enjoy when my teammates message me on Slack to remind me that it’s time for scrum.
Read next: Books for Agile Project Managers .
About the author: Elisa Cepale is a support administrator @WhiteOctober and founder of @FirstWeLove . As support administrator at White October she manages agile projects as well as supervising the ongoing support flow. She also contributes to creating long-lasting relationships with clients and a positive environment to work in. In her spare time, you can find Elisa in her studio where she blogs about weddings amongst other things, edits her photos, makes stuff, and plans her next trip abroad.
This is an edited and updated version of an article that first appeared on this website in 2016.