The ways we stand up

Ways we stand up (1)

As an intro into Scrum Mastery, my scrum coach at work had set a few hands on activities for me. A few months ago I was asked to observe different teams during various activities. This was so I could get to experience different team dynamics without actually having to work in them.

This was as a good practical exercise for me to understand how teams work. It helped me gain further insight in to what it means to be a Scrum Master.

In this post I want to share my insights and opinions. I will also offer some advice that might be helpful in your stand-ups.

What are we all trying to achieve by spending the time together at stand-up?

I Initially assumed that we stand-up  so that we understand what our team mates are doing. With my Scrum Master hat on I could see that there are many other reasons.

Stand-ups are usually held in the mornings making it a great time to catch up and understand what we are doing. They help our Product Owner and other observers understand the progress of work.

One thing to remember though is that this is not the time to micro manage or solve problems.


3 teams had kindly allowed me to join them at their stand-ups for a period of 3 weeks. My role was to silently observe and not take part in the stand-up.

Here are a few things that I gathered from all 3 teams

Things that we all do

  • The common features – boards either digital (Trello, Pivotal Tracker, or JIRA) or physical
  • Set time – regular *scheduled* start time
  • It’s not usually at the start of the day for everyone in any team
  • Usually one person takes the lead and gets things started.
  • Talk about the work that we have done
  • Talk about the work that we want to do
  • Ask for help
  • Decide if any story kick-offs are needed that day
  • Talk about team member availability – helps the team to plan when to do some types of work
  • Talk only about work that affects the team in the stand-up
    • But sometimes we all get carried away and describe why we’re busy outside of the team

Things that we do differently

Team 1

  • This team sometimes don’t look at their board at all. Tickets are not always discussed
  • Waiting for everyone to be available
  • Waiting for help to be requested

Team 2

  • Starting promptly
  • Help offered before it is requested when a story is moving slowly
  • Spend a lot of time on each item or ticket before moving onto the next (even if no work has been done since the last time they spoke about it)
  • Move tickets on boards during stand up as needed

Team 3

  • Whizz through the tickets and after stand up come back to tickets that need conversations to happen.
  • ‘What I did, What I am going to do and What’s blocking me’
  • Moving now to focussing on the work on the board, and less about what kept each team member busy the day before
  • Help is at times offered and at times sought
  • Since the introduction of Jira, team wait until after stand up to move the tickets

Conclusions and advice

  • We are all trying to achieve the same thing but doing it differently
  • There is no right or wrong way in how we stand-up. Just do what is suitable for the team
  • The format and tools vary between teams
  • Team dynamics plays an important part
  • Team size impacts the length, content and quality of stand ups
  • Distributed or co-located teams will use different these methods

Let us now look at some good/bad habits that can help us during stand-ups

Good habits:

  • Stay focused
  • Use your board to see what work you are doing
  • Making sure the board is up to date before standup
  • But update the board if you get new information about a story during standup
  • Keep asking if you are not getting help when you describe a problem (Scrum Masters – look for this happening!)
  • Offer help if you think that you can help finish work more quickly
  • Talk about the team work (the work on the board)
  • Break out longer discussions for later sessions, likely with a smaller group of people

Bad habits:

  • Not looking at a “Kanban” board during the discussion
  • Straying away from the team work topics
  • Jumping from column to column in the discussions
  • Jumping from story to story in the discussions
  • Rambling discussion
  • Don’t try to solve problems in the stand-up


Credits: This post was originally written with the help of Steven Mackenzie (@busywait)


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