Recently I received a question about how to help team members stay engaged during daily Stand Up meetings. I didn't have a chance to ask, but I suspect that the questioner was experiencing the StandUp "downers" that happen on too many teams––no clear questions, responses that are too long or too rambling or both, inadequate understanding about the "why" behind the practice, less often than daily, etc.  Are you having "Stand Downer" meetings too? If so, I decided to share my answer with you as well. 

StandUps offer the most benefit when they are kept brief (30-60 seconds per team member), frequent, and to the point––sustaining communication about the state of the work. It helps when team members know the questions ahead of time and come prepared to answer them succinctly. Stealing a suggestion I learned from James Shore, I recommend that each person write their answer on an index card to bring to the meeting. 

However, the “three questions" don’t need to always be the same. For fun and variety, and to keep it engaging, insert new questions from time to time, e.g. every other week or monthly. As you try new questions, make sure they stay focused on the work. Some possible variations:

 Set A. (The Classic) 

  1. What story did you work on yesterday? Who worked on it with you? 
  2. What story do you plan to tackle today? Who will you work with on it? 
  3. What obstacles, if any, do you anticipate to finishing?  

Set B. (Shared Learning) 

  1. In the work you did yesterday, what did you learn that could help the whole team? 
  2. What do you hope to learn today? How will you share it with all of us? 
  3. What gets in the way of your learning? 

Set C. (Finding Help) 

  1. What helpful resources (e.g., websites, books, articles, repositories, team member expertise, etc.) did you access yesterday for your work? 
  2. Where will you look for help today? 
  3. When have you found it difficult to find helpful resources? What gets in the way? 

Set D. (Achieving the Plan) 

  1. How did you help the team move toward achieving our iteration plan yesterday?
  2. How will you help us move forward on the plan today? 
  3. What will impede your progress? 
  4. On a scale of 0 (no way) - 5 (super confident), how confident are you that we will complete all the work in our iteration plan? 

Set E. (Continuous Integration)

  1. What did you commit yesterday? 
  2. What do you hope to commit today? 
  3. What hinders your ability to continuously integrate your work today? 

Note Bene: The path to removing any obstacles, impediments, hindrances, or problems should be discussed separately, by relevant parties only, outside of the standup meeting. This can happen just afterwards or later, but it's not part of the daily StandUp. 

In addition, if your StandUps are suffering from any of the dysfunctions listed above, the answer is to make them even shorter and more frequent. I worked with a high-functioning team of 8 people that held two StandUps a day. Each meeting was no more than 5 minutes. This way we all stayed updated on what the whole team was working on and our rate of progress toward our outcome. We were each able to jump in to help when our particular skills were most needed. It added to our effectiveness and our efficiency. When we saw that our progress was slowing, we increased to three daily meetings: early morning, after lunch, and end of day, so we could even better stay in synch. Still each under 5 minutes. 

You can do it!