Better Daily Planning Meetings: Asking the Right Questions

When coaching teams and observing their daily planning (aka standup) meetings I often hear the following questions asked:

  • What did you work on yesterday?
  • What will you work on today?
  • What is impeding your work?

These same questions are asked even with experienced teams. But are these the right questions to ask in a daily planning meeting? I submit that teams that ask these questions are in need of a paradigm shift. Are the answers to these questions really what we want to hear? I doubt it. What we really want to know is: How are we doing towards our goals in this iteration? So the focus should be less on the work and more on what actually got completed. Try these questions instead:

What did you get done yesterday?

What will you get done today?

What is preventing you from getting work done?

In other words, the focus should be on completing work, not just doing work. It is a somewhat subtle yet important point, that has other ramifications on how we do Scrum: We need to be breaking tasks down into small enough chunks to get accomplished in a day. If our goal is to complete user stories and get them accepted every two-three days, then tasks should be one day or less in length (in ideal time). It also means if tasks (or work) are not getting completed on a daily basis, we may have hidden impediments.