At this point, anyone who is doing Agile software development is familiar with the daily stand-up. Traditionally, during that meeting, each team member answers the following questions for the larger group:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What did you do today?
- Is there anything blocking you from moving forward?
This approach works well for teams of four to six people, especially those in the same location. It provides a set time and format to share an update on your work and sort through any issues. But what happens when you’re working within a larger team or a team that isn’t co-located?
Big Team, Big Problems
On a recent project, our development team found itself working on a feature set within a larger platform. The invite list grew, and at one point, our stand-up included as many as 25 people, spread across many time zones. Everyone was working in the same code base, so it seemed to make sense for them to know what was happening across the platform. Sounds good in theory, right?
Eventually, though, the stand-up became another required meeting that had very little value. Here are some things we started to notice:
- Everyone was talking at each other, but not with each other to identify issues, blocks, or overlaps in work.
- There was apathy going into the meeting, which set a bad tone for the day.
- The main focus was remembering your reporting place in line, but folks were tuning out while others talked.
- It turned into a “general announcements” meeting. It lingered on and sometimes got very off-topic for a call of 25 people.
- We were missing the direct connection with our UX Designer and Product Owner.
It’s all too easy for a meeting of that size and format to drag on and turn into something other than its original intent. Our team felt a lot of pain with this format and proposed two changes to our Product Owner and Scrum Master.
We decided to only send one team representative each day to our larger meetings, and we’ve already noticed a lot of improvements. For our new process, we assigned each team member a day to attend the larger stand-up. Before leaving for the day, other team members shared their updates in Slack. The daily representative has the responsibility to report this information to the larger team.
This change has forced our team to prepare better and to think about their daily highlights. It also allows the representative to have ownership over consolidating the information and staying on top of what everyone is doing so we have a more cohesive and succinct update.
We decided to schedule a smaller team stand-up directly following the larger one. While it sounds like we just added more meetings, in the smaller meeting, we discuss more tactical items and go into details that a broader 20+ person team may not care about or need to know.
This follow-up stand-up includes just the core team (in our case, developers, product owners, and a UX designer). Our team representative for that day also shares any important information from the previous standup to our team.
We’ve been trying these modifications for a few weeks, and overall it’s been a very positive change for our team. What have you done to try to improve stand-ups for a large team?