Daily Stand-up: You're Doing It Wrong!

Episode 9 - 28 Oct 2015

I’m a big fan of the daily stand-up. Even when they don’t work well, they work better than no stand-up at all.

But I’m not such a fan of the way that most stand-ups are run.

There is a better way.

Key take-aways:

  • The most common model for the Daily Standup is the “Yesterday, Today, Blockers” model:
  • "What I did yesterday"
  • "What I plan to do today"
  • "What (if anything) is blocking me"
  • The “Yesterday, Today, Blockers” model tends to make team members focus on themselves - and on making a good impression.
  • An altenative model is to "Walk the Board" (aka "Walk the Wall" aka "Talk to the Work")
  • The "Walk the Board" model puts the focus on the work.

Remember to grab this: (Daily Standup Words of Wisdom)[]

I’m a big fan of the daily stand-up.

Even when they don’t work well, they work better than no stand-up at all.

Having said that, the most common model for stand-up is, in my opinion,


There is a better way.

Hi this is Gary, Welcome to Development that Pays.

If your dev team does a daily stand-up, the chances are that it uses the “Yesterday, Today, Blockers” model:

with each person taking their turn to talk about:

  1. What they worked on yesterday
  2. What they’re woking on today
  3. What - if anything - is impeding their progress - otherwise known as blockers

It all seems very reasonable. And on the level of the individual, it is.

But a stand-up is not an individual event. It’s a team event.

Let’s run a quick stand-up using the yesterday-today-blockers model.

The team gets up and forms a circle.

Kevin starts

He runs through what he did yesterday, what he plans to do today…

and whether or not he has any blockers

Fiona is next. She talks about what she did Yesterday, what she planing to do today

Let’s freeze it right there.

Question: Who’s talking?

Well, obviously it’s Fiona

Who’s listening?

Well, everyone else

If only!

Let’s give Dave, the Lead Developer, the benefit of the doubt and say that he’s giving Fiona his full attention.

Kevin has had his turn, to he might be listening.

What about John? Well, he’s HIGHLY unlikely to be listening.

He’s up next. Most of his attention is on working out what he’d going to say.

The same - perhaps to a slightly lesser extent - for Tim.

You don’t need to have been in a stand-up to know that this is truth of this

Ever been at a business event where people are invited to introduce themselves themselves around the table?

Before it was your turn, were you paying attention

or were your creating your story in your head?

And did you breathe a sigh of relief after your’d taken your turn.

And then - and only then - pay attention to what other people were saying?

Come on, admit it. I won’t tell.

Believe me, the same thing happens in Stand-ups. For exactly this same reasons:

  • We want to make a good impression.
  • We want to tell a good story.
  • We do NOT want to embarrass ourselves.

And all this without notes.

This is not easy. It takes concentration. It takes your full attention.

Let’s look at a different way of running stand-up.

The team gets up and they start… not with Kevin… nor with any member of the team.

No, the starting point is this ticket.

Tim knows about it. He reports that testing is nearly complete.

On to the next ticket, which is marked as blocked. Is it still blocked? Fiona reports that it is.

On to this next ticket.

Kevin knows about this one. He reports that he’d made some progress… and needs some help with one aspect of it. Dave offers to take a look immediately after stand-up.

And so it goes on.

This is called Walking the Board or Walking the wall.

it takes the focus away from the individual and puts it where it should be: on the work.

There’s no longer a need for anyone to use valuable brainpower to “come up with a good story”.

The cards, in effect, provide the “agenda items" for the stand-up. And commenting on an agenda item is easy.

This is just one advantage of the Walking the Board model.

We’ll take deeper dive into some of the other advantages in the next episode

Talk to you then.