Daily Standup: Is Your Team Ready for the Next Evolution?

Common questions about a daily standup - LeanKit

As an Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) and coach, I work with teams every day who are evolving their understanding of Kanban as well as the level of maturity at which their teams practice it. One of the most frequent questions I hear from the teams with whom I work is:

Do daily standups really need to happen every day?

It’s important to take into account the first principle of Kanban, Start with what you do now, when considering such a question. I decided that this would be an excellent topic for my second webinar with LeanKit. In case you missed it, you can watch the recording below. Keep reading to learn more about how teams find themselves conducting unproductive standups, day after day — and how to determine if your team is ready to graduate to less frequent standups.

The Kanban Method has recently identified an emerging set of cadences which the community is slowly beginning to adopt — but for most teams who are just getting started, they’ll likely continue to use the ceremonies to which their team is accustomed. For most teams, the daily standup is a staple.

Why is Your Daily Standup Stale?

Many teams, even if they are not formally a Scrum team, use the format prescribed by Scrum for the daily standup. Each member of the team answers three questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What am I doing today?
  3. Do I have any blockers?

Although routine can be great for teams trying to emerge from the gravitational pull of their old habits, the routine will eventually get old. As a result, the importance of the meeting and its goals diminish in the minds of each participant. The element of critical thinking that the ceremony is designed to pique often will backslide into a mindless, daily status update.

I must admit, the question at hand once frustrated me. I don’t fundamentally believe that 15 minutes is too much time to ask a team to be transparent every day. But once I began to more clearly understand why this question was emerging so frequently, the underlying motivation for the question became more clear to me. Most daily standups are stale standups.

Ask a Different Question

In this webinar, I made the case with teams who ask, “Do daily standups really need to happen every day?” I believe that they are asking the wrong question. I propose a new question:

Is our team mature enough to hold standups less frequently?

Although I don’t ever recommend that a team conduct a standup less frequently than once per week, my perspective has relaxed about the necessity of holding the meeting daily providing some criteria is met. Watch this recording of my webinar to learn more.

11 Goals for Mature Teams

In the webinar, I shared the 11 goals I give to a team who wants to hold standups less frequently.

  1. Each member of the team demonstrates the ability to consider how his or her work fits into the broader workflow of the team and overall organization (a.k.a. systems thinking).
  2. Each member of the team updates the state of his or her work on the Kanban board in real-time.
  3. No member of the team is hiding work outside the Kanban system.
  4. Outliers on the control chart are minimal. Meaning there is a narrow range of time in which work is consistently delivered (e.g. 95% of our work is delivered within X and Y days).
  5. The team detects, discusses and resolves flow issues with its work throughout the day without prompting.
  6. Each team member knows the current lead time distribution metric from memory.
  7. Each team member knows his or her role in the current step the team is taking toward continuous improvement.
  8. Expedite and Abort rates are low.
  9. Each member of the team is adhering to Pull Criteria and other explicit policies.
  10. The standup isn’t being led by a specific person but is organically driven by the team.
  11. Stakeholders are generally satisfied with the team.

It’s important to remember that these goals aren’t a finish line. It’s not about meeting the short-term goal, changing the policy on how frequently your team conducts a standup meeting, and never holding your team accountable to these goals again. Your team should retrospect these goals a minimum of once per month.

If, after you reduce the frequency of standups, you observe that your team is falling short, re-institute the daily standup until you are consistently meeting or exceeding these 11 goals.

Try it with Your Team

Is your team mature enough to hold standups less frequently? Flip through my slides and address each of the questions as a team to determine if you’re ready to evolve your standup.

Brendan Wovchko

Brendan is a technology entrepreneur and community organizer based in Nashville. He focuses on helping businesses resolve operational challenges by implementing Agile and Lean methodologies through his boutique consultancy, HUGE I/O. Connect with Brendan on LinkedIn.

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