The 30 Second Standup

Series: practices May 29, 2013

The Three Pillars of Standup Meetings:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you doing today?
  3. What is blocking your progress?

Everyone stands in a circle and takes their turn answering the questions. The whole meeting should last only a few minutes and gets everyone of the same page.

But when you consider all the extra crap that gets talked about at a standup — the “Oh, did you remember to do X when you did Y?”, the “I told you we should have done A, but the client made us do B”, the “By the way, can we add a new item type in Jira for tracking requirement changes?”, the “Let me tell you about every line of awesome code I wrote yesterday” — you are now approaching the 15 minute mark and the cost is breaching four-figures.

So why do we follow this format? Is it the best way to communicate this information?

To the best of my knowledge, we follow the Three Pillars because it was written down somewhere and that’s how we learned it. It is a concise and prescriptive way to describe a best practice and a near certain improvement over existing alternatives.

But just because the official rules (gotta love all those rigid rules, eh? So agile!) state that you must go around the circle and answer all three questions doesn’t mean you should.

Here’s a blueprint for a format I find more effective: The 30 Second Standup.

The 30 Second Standup reduces the Three Pillars to:

“Okay, anyone blocked?” (crickets…) “Alright, good standup!”

But how will I know what everyone did yesterday?

Try looking at the git log or Jira. This encourages good commit messages and allows you to filter out parts of the system that you are less focused on.

Okay, how will I know what people will be working on next?

Check the Kanban board or the Story Map. Once the team learns to “read the board”, it will be clear what to work on next and you can check back anytime you want.

Pillar 3 — “what is blocking you?” — is only one that I’ve found to have justifiable value. You might think that a BLOCKER! sticky note on the Kanban board will suffice, but most teams need a designated “safe haven” for asking for help and getting an immediate follow-up action.

This safe haven is especially important when you have a team of varying skill levels or that is unfamiliar with each other. It is easy for a new developer to quietly struggle because they don’t want to interrupt someone else or look stupid by asking for help.

And sometimes, you don’t even know who to go to with your problem, so pitching it to the group is the fastest way to find out the next step.

So should every team switch to the 30 Second Standup? Absolutely not.

Every team should continuously challenge dogmatic practices and reflect on their value.

Don’t be afraid to tweak processes that aren’t working for your team. Don’t blindly follow the rules if you can’t justify them to an outsider.

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