TL;DR: 16 Stand-up Anti-Patterns
The daily stand-up is the ceremony with the highest anti-pattern density among all scrum ceremonies. Learn more about the stand-up anti-patterns that threaten to derail your agile transition.
Stand-up Anti-Patterns – From Dysfunctional Scrum Teams to Organizational Failures
Typically, a good scrum team needs about five to ten minutes for a stand-up. Given this short period, it is interesting to observe that the daily stand-up is the scrum ceremony with the highest potential anti-pattern density. The anti-patterns range from behaviors driven by dysfunctional teams to apparent failures at an organizational level.
My favorite stand-up anti-patterns are as follows:
- No routine: The stand-up does not happen at the same time and the same place every day. (While routine has the potential to ruin every retrospective, it is helpful in the context of stand-ups. Think of it like a spontaneous drill: don’t put too much thought into the stand-up, just do it. Skipping stand-ups can turn out to be a slippery slope. And skipping may only be acceptable the day after the sprint planning. However, please keep in mind that every team member can veto skipping the stand-up.))(Updated 2017.4-24.)
- Status report: The stand-up is a status report meeting, and team members are waiting in line to “report” progress to the scrum master, the product owner, or maybe even a stakeholder
- Ticket numbers only: Updates are generic with little or no value to others. (“Yesterday, I worked on X-123. Today, I will work on X-129.”)
- Problem solving: Discussions are triggered to solve problems, instead of parking those so they can be addressed after the stand-up
- Planning meeting: The team hijacks the stand-up to discuss new requirements, to refine user stories, or to have a sort of (sprint) planning meeting
- No red dots: A team member experiences difficulties in accomplishing an issue over several consecutive days, and nobody is offering help. (This a sign that people either do not trust each other or that the utilization of the team is maximized.)
- Monologs: Team members violate the time-boxing, starting monologs. (60 to 90 seconds per team member should be more than enough time on air.)
- Statler and Waldorf: A few team members are commenting every issue. (Usually, this is not just a waste of time, but also patronizing as well as annoying.)
- Disrespect I: Other team members are talking while someone is sharing his or her progress with the team. (Similarly irritating is the need to use speak tokens among adults to avoid this behavior.)
- Assignments: The product owner – or scrum master – assigns tasks directly to team members.
- Cluelessness: Team members are not prepared for the stand-up. (“I was doing some stuff, but I cannot remember what. Was important, though.”)
- Let’s start the shift: The stand-up acts as a kind of artificial factory siren to start the next shift. (This is a common Taylorism artifact where trust in the team is missing.)
- Disrespect II: Team members are late to the stand-up. (Note: if the team did not choose the time for the stand-up it otherwise indicates distrust on the management side.)
- Excessive feedback: Team members criticize other team members right away sparking a discussion instead of taking their critique outside the stand-up
- Overcrowded: Stand-ups are ineffective due to the large number of active participants
- Talkative chickens: “Chickens” actively participate in the stand-up. (I think it is acceptable if stakeholders ask a question during the stand-up. However, they are otherwise supposed to listen in merely.)
- Anti-agile: Line managers are attending stands-up to gather “performance data” on individual team members. (This behavior is defying the very purpose of self-organizing teams.)
Depending on the context, it could also be an anti-pattern if the product owner – or even another stakeholder – is introducing new tickets to the current sprint during the stand-up. This behavior may be acceptable for priority one bugs. (Although the team should be aware of those before the stand-up.) However, it is an unacceptable behavior – and thus an anti-pattern – for changing priorities on the fly in the middle of a sprint.
Lastly, some teams like to have stand-ups in Slack, particularly those that are not co-located. Again, depending on the context, this does not need to manifest an anti-pattern per se. I was even working with a co-located team that used Slack as their preferred way of having a stand-up. It worked.
A lot of agile practitioners tend to consider stand-ups to be a candidate for waste. However, from a scrum master or agile coach perspective stand-ups offer the highest yield of anti-patterns – given the effort is so small by comparison to other ceremonies.
What stand-up anti-patterns have you observed? Please share with us in the comments.