The Daily Stand-Up: Start Time Doesn’t Matter

What time should your daily stand-up meeting be held?

The subject of what time to hold the daily stand-up is frequently asked by software development teams following an agile approach like Scrum, Kanban, Lean or XP. Most teams like to hold the stand-up ‘first thing in the morning’ — whatever that means. Here’s the problem.

Some people like to arrive at the office early — at times as early as 6:00am. Others like to arrive later, maybe much later. It’s not unusual to find people starting their day at 10:00am or 11:00am. By the time the latecomers arrive, the early risers are half way through their day.

If you schedule the stand-up meeting early in the morning, the latecomers will not be happy. Having your daily routine upended is never a good thing. We’re all creatures of habit.

If you schedule the meeting later in the day, some of the early risers may flounder. They may bide time until the stand-up begins, unsure of what to focus on for the day.

The situation becomes more complex if the team is distributed across time zones. Imagine someone in the eastern U.S. starting work at 6:00am local time while someone in the western U.S. starts at 10:00am local time. That’s 1:00pm in the east and the early risers will be heading home soon.

Redefine the cycle

The problem begins with the basic questions asked at the standup meeting — “What did you finish yesterday?” “What will you finish today?” Breaking things down based on the earth’s rotation is convenient but certainly not agile. The daily stand-up meeting should focus on what’s happening now. The information conveyed should be timely and relevant.

Forget about yesterday and today. Ask “What have you finished since our last meeting?” and “What will you finish before our next meeting?” This phrasing also helps in dealing with personal time off, holidays, etc.

It’s a simple change in mindset that breaks the artificial tension created by our circadian rhythms.

Updated: January 19, 2012 — 9:32 pm