The Daily Stand-up
On the morning of August 14, 1914, General Joseph-Simon Gallieni, military governor and commander of the Armies of Paris, called a meeting of his cabinet. This gathering was not an ordinary meeting. It was less than four weeks after the beginning of World War I, and German troops were advancing on Paris. The General requested that his cabinet stand, rather than sit, and refrain discussing the controversial strategic topic at hand — whether or not Paris should be defended. The objective of defending Paris was already in place. Instead, the group was asked to certify their agreement to the state of defense the General proposed and review tactical orders. The meeting lasted just fifteen minutes.
Nearly eighty years later, a team of software engineers at Easel Corporation rose from their desks with a different objective: to deliver a working piece of software to their customer, on time, with all of the promised features. Jeff Sutherland, the co-founder of the agile management practice Scrum, led the team as they recited what they would do that day to move the team closer to its goal. The stand-up meeting had three rules: it was at the same time every day, it lasted no longer than 15 minutes, and all team members were required to participate. After just one week of adopting this practice, Sutherland observed a 400% improvement in the productivity of his team.
Stand-ups have unrivaled popularity in technology companies, with 80% of software engineers reporting that they take part in a daily stand-up in a VersionOne survey. Like Sutherland’s meeting, stand-ups typically last no more than 15 minutes and take place at the same time every day. The practice varies from company to company, with some organizations requiring participants to carry a medicine ball as they speak or imposing fines for showing up late, but the meetings share a single purpose: to ensure the team is aligned, progressing toward the objective, and that all roadblocks are removed as quickly as possible.
Published in 2001 by a team of 17 software developers, the Agile Manifesto outlines the ideal daily meeting. Stand-ups are held standing, rather than sitting, to encourage brevity and minimize distractions. During the meeting, each team member must answer these three questions:
- What did you do yesterday to help the team reach its objective?
- What will you do today to help the team reach its objective?
- What obstacles are getting in the way?
Watch this video to learn more about how to run an effective standup