Don’t Limit Communication to Daily Stand-ups

Blah Blah BlahA pattern often seen in Scrum Teams is relying on the daily stand-up for all communication.  This can lead to long, drawn out stand ups in which half the team zones out because what’s being discussed isn’t relevant to everyone.  Detailed technical conversations are distracting and can cause the team to lose their place in the stand-up and miss important elements, such as raising impediments.  Instead teams should be constantly synchronizing, and the focus of the stand-up should be making sure nothing has fallen through the cracks and even more importantly, on making a plan for the upcoming day’s work.

Remember that the stand-up is time boxed to 15 minutes.  If your team is regularly going over time because they are getting mired in technical discussions this is a sign that team members aren’t communicating enough out of stand-up time.  If you see this happening, get the team members to note down the issue and have the relevant team members decide on a time outside of the stand-up to discuss the issue further.

This is also an opportunity to investigate other reasons why team members might not be communicating – are the right people sitting together or is distance hindering communication?  Does the team need a separate meeting area where members can have in-depth discussions without feeling like they’re distracting the rest of the team?  Are the right people on the team?

Another kind of conversation that can derail the stand-up is those that involve specification discussions and clarifications with the Product Owner.  These kind of conversations also need to be taken offline.  Again the best action to take is to note down the issue, determine who needs to be a part of the discussion and make a time to have the discussion later.  Even if the discussion is only delayed until immediately after the stand-up, it still helps to separate the different kinds of conversations and keep the stand-up on track and focussed.  If this is the kind of conversation that often leads your team astray at stand-ups it can be a sign that the Product Owner is not spending enough time with the team outside of stand-ups.

One of the most important aspects of the daily stand-up is raising impediments, but that doesn’t mean that impediments should be saved up until the stand-up.  No manager ever wants to hear that their team has been sitting around for a day because they’ve encountered a problem that only the manager can solve, especially if it’s a 5-minute fix, or even worse if it’s something the team could’ve solved on their own.

In a lot of ways the daily stand-up is best for monitoring the progress of impediments removal and ensuring the right actions are being taken.  The daily stand-up isn’t necessarily the best time to discuss possible solutions to impediments as these discussions can be long and heated and, depending on how large the impediment is, may just be distracting to many of the team members.  Once impediments are identified, if a solution isn’t immediately apparent, a team member (possibly the scrum master) should take responsibility for organizing the discussion outside of the stand-up.  This person should then be able to report on the progress made for removing the impediment at the next stand-up.

To summarize, almost any time your daily stand-up starts to get long-winded the 3 steps your should take are:

1. Identify the issue and note it down somewhere (to make sure it’s not forgotten)

2. Identify the stakeholders for the issue

3. Make a time for the stakeholders to discuss the issue later outside of the stand-up

As the scrum master there is also a bonus step to consider whether there is an underlying root cause for this issue being raised in the stand-up.  And always remember to coach your team to look for root causes too.

Related Books:

Collaboration Explained

Jean Tabaka
Coach Agile Teams

Lyssa Adkins
The Scrum Field Guide

Mitch Lacey

Categories: Communication

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