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Missing the Point of the Daily Stand-Up?
by Paul Hodgetts, Agile Logic Founder & CEO

One of the key practices in agile processes is the daily activity called, in Scrum, the "Daily Scrum," or the "Daily Stand-Up" in Extreme Programming and other methods. Unfortunately, this is an area where I see so many teams that are not realizing the full value of this practice, and too often end up reducing its frequency or dropping it altogether.

The biggest misconception is that the Daily Stand-Up is a status reporting mechanism. This misconception is easily had, especially with the emphasis Scrum puts on the "three questions" that team members are asked. Running through the answers, one team member at a time, can feel very much like a status report.

Even without the formality of the three questions, many teams view the Daily Stand-Up as simply a communication mechanism to inform each other about what's going on in the project. While a team can gain a lot of benefit from this information exchange, it still falls far short.

In agile methods, one of the core strategies is empirical process control—the idea of continuously adapting to our project feedback to best achieve our end goals. The mechanism that's used to implement empirical control is called by Scrum "inspect and adapt."

The Daily Stand-Up represents a key synchronization point in the daily cycle that steers us towards the end of our iteration. The purpose of the Daily Stand-Up is to pause, take a look at where things really are at (inspect), and as a team decide what to do to for the next day to make the best progress towards our goals (adapt). It's done every day because anything more than a day's deviation from the best path to the iteration goals will quickly snowball into larger issues.

From my experience, a team not using the Daily Stand-Up as a steering mechanism is missing out on a key benefit of agile. They often end up with large variances in achieving iteration goals and late-cycle surprises when it's most painful to adjust. We'd see lots of partially completed stories and falling short of "done."

A team with effective Daily Stand-Ups will have everyone actively involved each day in making the many small adjustments needed to reach a clean closure to each iteration.

So if you're not seeing the value in a Daily Stand-Up, it may be worth a second look at its real purpose. Agile Logic provides a full range of training, workshops and coaching services to help your team adopt and improve its agile practices.