Different flavors for Agile Standups

4 methods for creating fun and exciting standups

Daily stand-ups are at the core of a software development team working in an agile environment. Most of the time the standups happen in the morning and most of the time they center on 3 questions: what did you do yesterday, what are you going to do today and do you need any help. These questions help the team gather insights about what is happening so that everybody can coordinate their activities for the day. But, in many situations, standups happen differently. Sometimes management sees the standups as meetings in which everybody reports how they are standing against the strict deadline imposed making the team anxious. Other times, the product manager takes advantage of the standup to discuss future implementations and objectives or to start micromanaging the way features are implemented and thus lowering the morale of the team. At other times, team members go into deep technical details making the whole meeting boring and feeling like a waste of time for the rest of the team. These and many other situations bring down the excitement of standups creating disengagement and making the process dull. So how can you bring up the excitement? I want to share with you four ways that I’ve experimented over the years that changed standups. In some situations, professional coaches brought these up and in other situations, I experimented.

Credits to PXFuel

Mood tracking

Sometimes the way your team is feeling is more important than the work they are doing. Results matter and your team’s work speaks for itself, but gaining insights into your members’ mood can prove valuable. If someone is worried or stressed, it could signal trouble down the road or it might be a sign of undisclosed issues. At the same time, a team member might be very excited and happy about something outside work and would like to share this with the team. Surfacing emotions during standups increases empathy and builds trust between the team members. There are many ways to track the mood, you can ask what made people happy or unhappy yesterday. You can ask people to draw an emoticon or describe an emoticon that aligns with their emotional state. Or you can ask them to post a gif on the team’s channel and then discuss it during the standup. The more creative you are, the better results you will see. It’s also a good idea to not do it too often, doing it once per week is an optimal frequency.

“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” — John Steinbeck

Playing around with cards

Playing can be exciting and fun for your team when done properly. Also, it can be an effective way of surfacing good and bad things that otherwise would be left untold. The actions and excitements of playing with cards raise dopamine levels that are needed at the start of the day. Cards with positive affirmations and appreciations towards team members raise oxytocin levels, thus boosting the level of trust and creating a safe environment. Here are 5 ideas for different card setups.

  • SuperHero cards — each team member extracts a card with a superhero and names a person that relates to that superhero and why. The named person picks the next card and names someone that hasn’t been chosen yet.
  • Feel good cards — these cards require actions such as giving a hug, sharing 3 positive traits of a nearby person or naming a good situation.
  • Mindfulness cards — each card contains a very thought-provoking question. These cards make everybody think out of the box.
  • Empowering cards — divided into categories, these cards have questions that open team members to new perspectives and can very valuable when out-of-the-box solutions are needed
  • Animal spirit cards, big idea cards, tarot cards, success cards, etc — there are many options for these, each with its distinctive flavor. A quick Amazon search will show many results.

Congratulating and celebrating

Standups offer a great opportunity for celebrating success. Every day, you can ask a different team member to give kudos to someone or you can have one weekly session in which everybody congratulates everybody. Also, you can have a senior manager or the CEO come to the standup and give congratulations to the team. After such a session, if you want to boost oxytocin levels more, you can have a session that involves physical touch, such as everybody shaking hands or hugging. Over the years, I have never seen people walk out sad after such a session, every single person that I’ve seen had a smile on their face and they were happy to take part in such a session.

Candies and sweets

Bringing candies and sweets to daily stand-ups also increases the excitement. Surprising everybody with a different flavor every time is guaranteed success. In our working environment, smell and taste are rarely stimulated positively. The stimulation of these senses is associated with increased dopamine levels, longer attention span, and higher blood sugar levels. One thing to keep in mind is the culinary preference of each team member. Some people might not be happy eating sugar every day, but you can easily change to fruits and seeds. Consider tangerines, clementines, raspberries as well as sesame seeds, pine nuts, and poppy seeds.

These are not the only ways to increase the excitement and it’s important to always try new things. To sum it up:

  • Track the mood in your team to surface unspoken feelings and build trust
  • Play cards to boost dopamine levels, create excitement and generate creative ideas
  • Congratulate and celebrate to boost oxytocin levels
  • Bring candies and sweets for longer attention spans