Daily Standup Communication

When talking to new teams about the daily scrum we start with the basics:

  • What did you work on yesterday to move towards the sprint goal
  • What are you working on today to move towards the sprint goal
  • Anything getting in your way impeding movement towards the sprint goal
  • Every day at a consistent time and location, and timeboxed to 15 minutes

That’s all pretty straightforward, and more often times than not, it turns right into a status meeting to the Scrum Master/Product Owner/Team Lead. Each member of the team looks at one person and gives their update, their piece of the puzzle, and then mentally checks out of the meeting. So what can you do?

A strategy I want to talk about is from a book by David Marquet called Turn the Ship Around. In the following excerpt, Mr. Marquet is talking about improving on his idea of not issuing commands. He has empowered his crew to initiate actions and expressing their intent to him so all he needs to do is formally ‘OK’ them (as Captain he is accountable for all actions aboard his ship).


One day I caught myself, and instead of asking the questions I had in mind, I asked the Officer On Deck what he thought I was thinking about his “intent to submerge.” “Well, Captain, I think you are wondering if it’s safe and appropriate to submerge.” “Correct. So why don’t you just tell me why you think it is safe and appropriate to submerge. All I need to say is ‘Very well.’”

The benefit from this simple extension was that it caused them to think at the next higher level. The Officer On Deck needed to think like the captain, and so on down the chain of command. In effect, by articulating their intentions, the officers and crew were acting their way into the next higher level of command.


I believe that same idea of thinking at the next higher level can extend to thinking at any other role. As the development team members are giving their update remind them to ask “what questions do the team members have in their mind” and answer them in their update. As an example, they are probably thinking something along the lines of “How does this affect me?” or “Why do I care?”

Now in our standup each team member is starting to think about how their work needs to be coordinated with everyone else. Another benefit is this also paves the way for a T shaped team member. A team member that is starting to understand their work at a team level during standups is also going to start considering it during development. That team member is taking into account the perspective of other roles on the team other than just their piece of the puzzle.

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