WHY do we have a stand-up?

There are many takes on how to conduct a stand-up, and at least as many takes on what to cover. But have we lost track of what’s actually important? At a meetup in the end of 2015, the speaker partly covered the ‘fact’ that the early majority, according to Moore’s technology adoption lifecycle, of companies doing software development is starting to adopt agile. You can read my thoughts on that here: WHY go Agile?

That is great! But as I mentioned, are we getting to a point where we just do what everyone else claim is working for them, without questioning WHY they are doing it that way, or how they came to the conclusion?


On the subject of stand-ups, a recurring conversation for me revolving stand-ups is around the how and the what, but never the WHY. Many times have I heard people in different positions with different point of view say the things below.

  • You should definitely be covering the three questions:
    1. What did you do yesterday?
    2. What are you going to do today?
    3. Do you have any blockers?
  • No, you should phrase the three questions like this:
    1. What value did you deliver yesterday?
    2. How will you contribute to getting us closer to our goal?
    3. Is there anything hindering you from moving forward?
  • No those are no good, the team should be walking the board! Going from right to left, trying to pull work items across.

But the question we should ask ourselves before we push for a stand-up format that we personally like. What is the goal of the stand-up? What are we trying to achieve with the stand-up? WHY do we even have a stand-up?

The purpose of the stand-up is to enforce self-organisation! The word enforce in this context is quite contradictory, but what we ultimately want is a team that solves any problem thrown at them. We will never achieve this with the mind set that the stand-up is “yet another status meeting” or “the stand-up has to cover the 3 questions”.

Then what should people talk about during the stand-up? My answer to that is: whatever the team feel they need to talk about. We have, after all, hired a group of very skilled, highly educated and competent developers to come and work for us and solve the problems that arise. Then why not trust that this is what they are doing?

But what should you do when you observe a non-productive stand-up? In cases where it simply doesn’t work.

  • Try to ask probing questions to get the conversation going.
  • Ask the team if they want to try something else instead of a stand-up.
  • Anything you can think of really, experiment.

Here is my 3 go to tricks I use as well: 3 Useful Tips in the Pursuit of a Leaderless Stand-up

But I’m not here to tell you what to do, there are loads of good content around how to do a good stand-up. All I want you to think about is WHY you are having a stand-up in the first place, and on that I only have one thing to say: Self-organisation!


This post was originally posted on Adventures With Agile the 30th of March 2016.



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