Random Notes by agilob

Agile, Lean, FlowThe Standup Questions

It is often misunderstood what purpose standup questions serve. Most likely you’re familiar with the following questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?
  • Do you have any blockers?

These questions make you answer what you are doing, they are misaligned with purpose of “the standup questions”.

In Scrum we do “Sprint Planning” where a team specifies a goal for the upcoming sprint, plans work and commits to deliver it. The standup questions are supposed to help you track progress of the team and each member of the team on their way to the goal.

Classic 3 Questions

Standup questions often look like this:

  • What did you do yesterday?
    • I worked really hard
    • I wrote 10 classes, 5 tests and 11 for loops, which clearly means I am delivering value!
  • What are you planning to do today?
    • I am going to work even harder today
  • Do you have any blockers?
    • No blockers, so no reason to fire me today boss!

It turned into a ceremony where team members are listing reasons to justify their existence in a team.

Different approach

Instead saying what are you doing and how good you are at doing it, try talking more about your sprint commitment/forecast and your progress towards it.

Try changing your daily standup questions to something like:

  • (required) Is the ticket you are working on at risk of not being delivered on time?
    • Can you deliver it without defects?
    • Is the next person (if there is any, eg. tester) picking up the ticket likely to complete their work on time?
  • (optional) How do you feel about working on this ticket?
    • Are you happy to work on it?
    • Would you like someone less busy to assist you working on it?

If you think you can’t deliver it, tell something like

I’m working on that X ticket, but it’s not going well. Looking at time we have left in our sprint, I don’t think I can finish my dev-work on time to let the ticket be picked up by testers and tested completely. This will cause us (as a team) to fail to deliver our commitment for the sprint.

When you say that, someone else with less work on their head should volunteer and help you, by pair-programming, mentoring, or simply taking over the work while you watch and learn. Testers will be wary that the dev-work might be late, so they will prepare a plan to test it on time.

If no one can help you with this ticket, scrum mater or PO will be aware of it and might help you (and your team) in other ways.

Benefits

  1. You concentrate on what’s important, which is your sprint goal and commitment to deliver it, make the forecast as accurate as possible
  2. It makes you responsible to deliver this work and your team responsible to help you when you can’t do it.
  3. You (as a team) make sure you work on delivery of your commitment. This will make your stakeholders happier, as they can see you are more consistent with your committed delivery.
  4. Closer integration of people into a team. You all committed to deliver this ticket, so don’t talk about how busy working you are, but how likely you are to deliver it all.
  5. Daily standup is “a necessary waste”, so cut the time.