The “Other” Standup Meeting

Today we want to tell you about a simple trick: a different kind of standup meeting.

The daily standup is the most famous – the most notorious – element of Scrum; to this day, there are leaders who think that if a few people stand around a whiteboard with sticky notes on it for 10-15 minutes every day, they are agile. Although the methodology is much more complex than that, the daily meeting is a really important element. And although it seems simple, many people get it wrong.

One of the changes made in Scrum 3.0 is precisely to “fix” the daily standup meeting. The observation behind it is that most teams use this conversation for status quizzing. This is not the original purpose. The standup meeting is a planning meeting, the smallest, most common regular team-level planning venue. Of course, status review is an important part of it, but the purpose is more than that: team members plan together who needs to do what that day to make the team (and the sprint) successful. For this reason, the old familiar three questions have been reworded and the official timetable now reads as follows:

1. What have you done since the last meeting to help the team reach the sprint target?
2. What do you plan to do between now and the next meeting to help the team reach the sprint goal?
3. Is there anything that is preventing you or anyone else from reaching the sprint goal?

It’s a bit theatrical, maybe forced, but it’s important and worth asking the questions in this way because it can help a lot in finding the right focus. The team’s job is not to perform tasks. The team’s task is to achieve the sprint goal by delivering the backlog items that are scheduled in the sprint backlog. The tasks should be subordinate to this.

It happens that despite all the focus and 3.0 standup meetings, the team stumbles. Failures, backlog items not completed, tasks missed, etc… Something is wrong. In such cases, we usually suggest to the team to try the “other” standup meeting. We call it Dexter, after the sympathetic serial killer whose adventures we’ve been thrilled by for 8 years, and had the dilemma: should we cheer for him to be caught or not?

Anyone familiar with the series will know that the protagonist works in the police force. In some episodes you see them starting their shift with a daily meeting. However, they don’t do it in the Scrum way; so they don’t talk through the situation as a team, but instead go through the cases one by one, like this:

– What is our highest priority?
– Catch the axe murderer.
– And did we catch him?
– No.
– Then who’s gonna do what today to catch him?
– …

The same method can be applied to a development team working in Scrum. In the sprint backlog, discuss in a nice and orderly way, from top to bottom, which backlog item is ready, and if not ready, which team member can help to complete the task as fast as possible (but of course accurately, and well, …).

Our experience is that this method makes it much easier to deliver complete backlog items. You can also combine the two versions: start with the classic format for the first half of the sprint and then switch to Dexter-style for the second half. Give it a try!