Stand-ups for agile teams

Learn how stand-ups help uncover blockers and strenthen your agile team

Dan Radigan Dan Radigan

Stand-ups are one of the fundamental parts of agile development, and it’s often the most misunderstood. Let’s be real: stand-ups by themselves don’t make your team agile. They aren’t about inflating egos or justifying job descriptions. They aren’t a time to plan; Sprint planning is for planning. They also aren’t the only time to mention blockers. If you’re stuck, ask for help!

In this article, we’ll talk about how to effectively manage blockers as well as offer other great tips and tricks we use at Atlassian. We want to help you make your stand-ups (and your overall agile program) awesome.

What is a stand-up in scrum?

In many sports like (American) football and rugby, the team huddles before each play. The huddle is strategic: it keeps the team informed, connected, and calibrated throughout the game. For software teams, the stand-up is like the team’s huddle. It’s even commonly known as the daily scrum, and reinforces “we” to keep everyone aware of the team’s landscape and progress.

Said another way, a stand-up is a daily meeting that involves the core team: product owners, developers, and the scrum master. This meeting’s flavor is unique to each team, but at Atlassian we use three simple questions to generate structure:

  • What did I work on yesterday?

  • What am I working on today?

  • What issues are blocking me?

These questions highlight progress and help flag team blockers. Also, it strengthens the team when everyone shares the progress they’re contributing to the team. The daily reinforcement of sharing individual successes and plans keeps everyone excited about the team’s overall contribution to the organization.

At the individual level, it’s important to walk into teh day's stand-up knowing what you’re going to say. It keeps the energy of the stand-up high and everyone engaged. At Atlassian, individuals use Jira boards to keep on top of their projects with quick filters. Two great filters that can be used together to help prepare for stand-up are “only my issues” and “recently updated.” When these two filters are used together, they show the issues assigned to you and that have been updated in the last day.

Using quick filters with Jira Agile boards
Pro Tip

One popular customization of the Only My Issues filter is to add the participants field from the Jira Toolkit Add-on. This adds any issues you’ve touched rather than just issues assigned to you. The JQL for that filter would be:

 assignee = currentuser() or participants in (currentuser()) 

Stand-ups at Atlassian

Stand-ups are not a one-size-fits-all meeting. At Atlassian, each team has a personalized stand-up to keep everyone involved and engaged. No two are exactly alike.

Let’s dig into what makes a great stand-up, and check out some of our examples.

  1. Choose a time that works for everyone – At Atlassian, most stand-ups for co-located teams happen between 9 and 10 a.m. It gives everyone time to get context for the day and doesn’t require everyone to be an early riser on the team. For teams spread across different geographies, choose a time that works for all people. For example, the Jira Service Desk team is spread between San Francisco and Sydney. Their stand-up is at 3:30 p.m. San Francisco time. Sure, an afternoon stand-up is a bit non-conventional, but it’s a great way to stay in touch with colleagues across the globe in Sydney.

  2. Keep stand-up efficient – Many teams at Atlassian informally time their stand-ups to keep everyone focused and to keep the stand-up efficient. Rotate who keeps time to make sure everyone is accountable and invested. Limit the duration of stand-ups to 15 mins–max. Have a smaller team? Make it a practice to keep the stand-up even shorter.

  3. Play catch – The Jira team tosses a beachball between team members to keep everyone engaged. No one can toss the ball to someone next to them or to someone who has already gone. No zoning out! If you haven’t tried the technique, it’s a great way to keep everyone involved.

  4. Make the stand-up a part of the team’s retrospective – Stand-up s are part of many agile cultures, but it doesn’t mean that the team can’t discuss the effectiveness of stand-ups in retrospectives. Some Atlassian teams meet daily. Others meet three times a week. The Jira team regularly discusses how to make stand-ups better for the team in retrospectives. If the team isn’t finding value in a stand-up, discuss why. Make some changes! Stand-ups are agile too!

Pro Tip

Some Atlassian teams integrate Crontabs, Pandora, and the team’s Jira wallboard. Crontabs loads Pandora (and the team’s favorite music) 15 seconds before the stand-up to get everyone’s attention and to start on time. The team’s wallboard highlights any blocked issues the team needs to focus in on for the day.

Stride + stand-up for distributed teams

At Atlassian, we have team members all over the globe: in one of our 12 offices or otherwise working remotely. We rely on Stride to keep everyone connected across geographies. Each team at Atlassian has a team room that keeps everyone in touch with one another. One feature of Stride is the integration with external services that automate routine processes (bots). We use Standup Bot in our group chat rooms every day to stay in sync and keep work moving forward. 

Standup Bot

Standup Bot in Stride makes it easy to report and retrieve statuses for stand-up, especially for teams in different time zones. In fact, Atlassian built this bot for Stride because asynchronous stand-up meetings are a way of life for most teams.

Add Standup Bot to any Stride room or chat from the Atlassian Marketplace.

Schedule standups in Stride

Whether you’re a collocated or a distributed team, Standup Bot helps teams stay connected and productive. Here's how it works:

Set a reocurring time for your team standup

Invite Standup Bot to your Stride Rooms and configure the time and recurrence of your stand-up. When it's time for stand-up, Standup Bot will remind everyone to submit their reports.

Schedule standups in Stride

Stay on the loop on your team’s status

View your stand-up details in the right sidebar of your room and easily send your report. Identify who has sent their reports, who’s got blockers, and whose reports are missing.

See the history of your stand-up reports

Navigate through your past stand-up reports to get a more profound view of team member's performance and the project's progress.