Rules Of Standup – You Don’t Need To Justify Your Own Existence

JustifyI saw a post the other day about the rules of standup. It was a nice basic introduction, but I find that I have something to add (what, me have an opinion on stuff, you don’t say :)). It is true, standup is one of those agile practices that has become pretty much universally adopted, even by non-agile teams (even by non-software teams). It has a lot of appeal, forcing people into a little bit of discomfort to keep a status meeting short and to the point. But, aside from the danger of standup becoming routine, there is also another thing to watch out for, especially for large teams.

Whenever a team gets past a certain size, no matter how little each person says, the whole standup can take a while. And yeah I am aware of the fact that ‘agile teams should be around 7 people’, but lets face it, in the real world agile teams can be much smaller or much bigger than that. The reason that a standup takes so long for a large team is because everyone has to talk. But of course everyone has to talk, it’s one of the rules, we all need to say:

  • what we did yesterday
  • what we’re going to do today
  • and what is impeding our progress

it’s what all good agile teams do. The thing is, everyone doesn’t need to talk. What if you’re pairing, do both halves of the pair need to say the exact same thing? What if you’re working on a really long task (longer than 2 days), do you really need to keep repeating yourself day in, day out? What if you’ve been asked to work on something unrelated to everyone else for a little while, do they need to know?

The answer to all of those is no. The problem is, if you say nothing for several days in a row people are going to think you’re doing nothing.



One of the key tenets of agile is trust. Your manager has to trust the team to do the right thing, and the team members trust each other as well. Don’t turn your standup into a forum for everyone to try and prove how important they are to the team.

One of the standup rules that we have adopted where I work is this:

You don’t need to justify your own existence!

You only talk at the standup if you have something relevant to say, otherwise just keep it moving. If you’re doing the same thing as yesterday, say so and keep it moving. If you’re on something unrelated for a while just say that and keep it moving. If your pair has already spoken – you guessed it, just keep it moving.

If your people all need to talk at standup to prove how busy they are, then you have big issues. Develop some trust within your team, don’t use standup to justify your own existence.

Image by Donnie Brasco

  • I disagree with some of the points made here above. If you are working a task that is long (as you say, longer than two days), just keeping quiet and saying “same deal as yesterday” provides no value to the team. The point of scrum is to flush out any intersections of tasks or actions so that efficiency can be gained or a technical innovation can be shared. The point is to lay things on a table and see what matches and use that information to better the project, on a micro and macro level.

    In addition, if a task is longer than two days there must be some way to communicate about the task in a more broken down manner. Even if you are researching some obtuse bug, where the problem is not well defined you must be making some kind of progress even if it be eliminating certain root causes. If nothing, you can describe what your roadblock is!

    The main point to take from a long scrum is for each person to be concise and short, not to just play dead and act like they have nothing to add.

    If there is a lot of people on a team and you have scrum you can all agree to limit your time to one minute each, and bam! get through it fast. I was on an agile scrum with 25 people and we got done in avg 16 minutes. The larger the team gets you have to accept that some minimal time is needed for each person and accept that your scrums simple just can’t be 5-10 mins.

    • I do see your point and the situation will differ from team to team. You can easily gauge if your standup is working by looking at how bored people are during. If people are not getting value out of the standup then you need to change what you’re doing. This change could simply be letting people not say anything if they have nothing to say. It could also be something else you need to try different things and see what works. Everyone would agree though that a standup where people are bored is not useful to anyone.