Thoughts on Daily Standup

One method that helped me as a Project Manager to foster and promote collaboration on my projects is a concept of “daily standup.” I use it everywhere. It does not even has to be a project per se. I tried doing daily standups at home with my wife and son, but that somehow did not stick. This a method derived from Agile software development and can be applied to any project, regardless of the industry or project team size. There are many terms to describe this concept such as “morning huddle”, “daily scrum”, etc. I like to refer to it the “daily standup” for one obvious reason is that it requires for participants to physically stand during this meeting. Standing also helps with keeping the meeting short, typically it is time boxed to no more than fifteen minutes. There are key objectives of the daily standup and there is known acronym used to describe these goals: GIFTS

  • Good Start
  • Improvements
  • Focus
  • Team
  • Status

Good Start is all about the energy and motivation. I recommend coordinating these daily standup meeting first thing in the morning (9:15 – 9:30 am is the most ideal). Enforce showing up on time. I have incorporated the concept of “signing a song in front of everyone at the end of the meeting for those who are late”. It works, and I’ve seen people running down the hallways or the parking lots to get to the “standup” on time.

Improvements: progress is better than perfection. Daily standup is designed to reveal all of the obstacles and problems that each of us is encountering and improve upon them. There is no need to try to solve every problem during the actual meeting, but rather get visibility to your current situation and identify several resources that can help you resolve it.

Focus: it is the Project Managers’ responsibility to ensure that the team is focused on the end result, the ultimate goal. And that requires constant reminder of what the team is working towards to. The daily standups shall put emphasis on moving the work through the system and continuously progress.

Team: daily standups serve as an effective team building activity. The entire team stands together, circle or a semi-circle next to the Project Board (more on that later). The environment of the standup shall be encouraging and each member shall feel comfortable speaking up her obstacles and updates.

Status: the daily standup needs to ensure that all team members are on the same page with regards to what everyone is focusing on. This will ensure that re-work, or any wasted activities are identified and the team members keep each other apprised of their current status.

Now that we understand the objectives of the daily standup, let’s talk about the actual process.

First, I recommend that the Project Manager controls the flow of the conversation and ensures that each team member focuses on the key information. Should the conversation go off track, it is important to disrupt and steer the conversation on the key updates and obstacles. Remember that this meeting is only fifteen minutes long and it is not meant to be a venting or a problem solution conversation. There is no need to have everyone talk about how to solve a particular problem.

Second, the team stands in a circle and there is a “speaking token” which can be anything: a ball, a marker, a shoe, whatever that can be passed on to the next speaker. Once the speaker is done providing her updates, she passes that token to any member who did not speak. Only the member who is holding the token is allowed to speak. Each member answers only the following three questions:

  • What did I focus on yesterday?
  • What will I focus on today?
  • Are there any roadblocks that are preventing me from moving forward?

Third, as a Project Manager, I like to jot down quick notes during the updates so that I can quickly assemble quick “pow wows” or “let’s take it offline” with the right resources after the standup if there is a particular problem that needs to be resolved.

One important fact to point out: each team member is reporting to the team, not to the leader. It must be a group discussion, rather than a status reporting to the manager. Project Managers must emphasize this at all times in order to foster collaboration and effective communication among the team members. I also noticed that it is a good practice to have the team manager or any other Lead participate in the daily standup and provide her updates just like everyone else.

Project Managers shall keep an eye on some of the indicators of an ineffective daily standup. Some of those characteristics may include:

  • Team members arriving late to the meeting
  • Status provided is focused on individual accomplishments/problems rather than the Team Goals
  • Team members are reporting their status to the manager
  • Team members have hard time remembering what were they focusing on the day before or cannot identify what they will be focusing on today. This is a big one as it may be an indicator of a low morale or lack of motivation.

As a Project Manager, it is important to identify these things very quickly and address immediately without letting them get out of hand. If the problem has to do with lack of motivation then it is important to address it one-on-one and determine the root cause.

Lastly, encourage the team to end each daily standup with some ritual. For example, a team huddle with “1 – 2 – 3 Hoorah” or a “3 – 2 – 1 Teamwork!”.

7-10-2015 5-03-45 PM

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