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Recently our team has decided to take part in daily stand up meetings. The team is very small (4 or 5 people including myself) everything I have read online says not to take minutes/notes at the daily stand up because that is not the purpose of the stand up meeting.

While I am in no way managing the team (I am just another developer) I frequently get asked question like, how far along we are on X by managers and team leaders. I do not work on X, but I am being asked, because if I do know the answer, my team leader knows I will give the honest answer (rather than telling them what they want to hear). Because my memory is not the greatest, would it be acceptable for me to take notes at the daily stand up so I always know where every piece of work currently stands? Or would that be considered a big no no?

UPDATE: it was mentioned I should add this, I am the one leading the stand up.

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    There's a difference between taking official minutes and personal notes. The latter is acceptable, so long as you aren't stalling discussion. – David K Jun 20 '17 at 12:49
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    For our standups, we discuss a "status board" for each project the group is working on. That board should be updated prior to the meeting and only yellow or red issues are mentioned. – DLS3141 Jun 20 '17 at 13:21
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    Wait, why are you the only one who can give an honest answer? Why are you responsible for keeping track of projects you aren't on? That sounds like the bigger problem. – Seth R Jun 20 '17 at 14:26
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    If your management again asks for a status update, start by selling the idea of a SCRUM board. "You could check it directly yourself". Link their problems to your solutions. – MSalters Jun 20 '17 at 14:32
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    I noticed in the comments you said you're leading the stand up meetings, I would add that information to the OP. IMO that changes how it would be perceived. – user812786 Jun 20 '17 at 15:51

10 Answers 10

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everything I have read online says not to take minutes/notes at the daily stand up because that is not the purpose of the stand up meeting

This advice is usually about an official and formal text summary of the meeting, which is then published or sent to all participants. This is discouraged because:

  • Stand-up meetings are supposed to be informal. Having official minutes unnecessarily formalizes it.
  • It gives an excuse for ditching the meeting ("I'm busy. I'll just read the summary later").
  • It slows the meeting down ("Hold on - how do you spell the name of that customer?").
  • It is a waste of time that could be used more productively.

Personal notes which are just for you to record data you can't keep in your head is no problem.

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    Yes. Not taking notes is done for the same reason as not sitting down: it's not really required for the meeting to function, but there simply shouldn't be any need to, and if there is, then you're doing it wrong (and allowing it, may delay noticing that something is going wrong). – Jörg W Mittag Jun 21 '17 at 6:51
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    Another reason not to take official notes is that some people are nervous about what they say when it is recorded and distributed (possibly outside of the team), which suppresses honest opinions/ideas/feedback. – user43838 Jun 21 '17 at 12:46
  • I doodle on my tablet (with stylus) during any and all meetings. I always explain that the notes are very personal in nature, won't be shared and is a process to help me recall the meeting later. Not once I had problems with anyone, even when high executives were involved. – Mindwin Jun 22 '17 at 12:52
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In my experience a stand up huddle works best when you have a visual cue / KPI board with every necessary piece of information. Less is more, it gets very much worse if you start including nice-to-know things. The meetings are conducted using board markers to just tick off whether things are according to plan or if a review / follow-up / correction / investigation is required and who is responsible. Sometimes there are post-its, color markers, pictures of team members - whatever really, as long as it facilitates easy and understandable decision making and prioritization.

It is perfectly fair to bring notes, but it kinda kills the process if everyone takes notes.

  • Most people have phones with a record facility - just switch on the record when you go to the meeting - unless your company is one of those defense companies where recording devices are not allowed at meetings. You can always listen to it again to jog your memory. – cup Jun 21 '17 at 12:18
  • @cup Sure, but to me that constitutes hiding a problem. If the meeting is run in a way that causes a team member to forget, misread or misunderstand, that is an actual problem with the meeting that needs to be solved, once and for all - not corrected for in perpetuity – Stian Yttervik Jun 21 '17 at 12:54
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TL;DR

Except as a disability accomodation of some kind, don't take notes during the stand-up. If you feel the need for notes, there's likely an underlying process problem that needs to be addressed by the team and by management.

Stand-Ups Aren't Status Pulls

The team is very small (4 or 5 people including myself) everything I have read online says not to take minutes/notes at the daily stand up because that is not the purpose of the stand up meeting...I frequently get asked question like, how far along on we on X by managers and team leaders.

First of all, an agile daily stand-up is not a status pull. It is a dependency-coordination meeting between team members, where the interdependencies for the current day's increment (not the increment for the project or iteration as a whole) are identified. If you're doing something more complex, it's likely that your team has misapplied this important agile practice.

Secondly, if someone has questions about the status of a work increment, they should:

  1. Get the data from an information radiator such as a story board or iteration burn-down report. Agile frameworks are supposed to be transparent!
  2. Ask the people working on the work increment about it directly, because agility is predicated on collaboration and direct communications.
  3. Talk to the Product Owner (or whoever is coordinating your framework's product delivery) if they can't determine who to talk to, or if seeking information directly would be disruptive.

In summary, if you're taking notes to provide status updates to people outside the team then your process is lacking key roles or sufficient transparency. Your project or line management should be informed of this process gap so that they can address it appropriately within your project management framework.

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    This is the answer I was gonna write. The information is already available from the issue tracking software, the whiteboard, and the developer working on that particular work item - so, there's no need to take notes, just refer (them) to the relevant information sources. – Grimm The Opiner Jun 21 '17 at 8:42
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    Pretty much agree with this. And even if someone asks you the status on X and you don't remember, is it so hard to say, "Hey Bob, what did you say about X again?" – Chris Schneider Jun 22 '17 at 12:25
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Yes of course, you should put down small words to depict what was discussed or Moments of meeting in a very summarized way. It'll help you plan better. Daily stand up meetings are not intended to go longer than 15-20 minutes but one should always note the blockers/stuck points.

There may be a possibility that your supervisor/Manager would ask you about the status of your team because he/she cannot go to each and every developer to get the status out but surely he/she will know that you can summarize better. Don't hold a stand up meeting for particular blocker discussion or point discussion but rather note that and talk it offline with one to one.

  • awesome, that's all i'm looking to do is a short 1 liner for every person that I can refer to when called upon – SaggingRufus Jun 20 '17 at 12:55
  • I partially agree to what Philipp says but sometimes i have seen scrum masters to fill up excel sheets with the status to draw the burn down charts and sticky notes with task break down always help. – ThunderMind Jun 20 '17 at 13:02
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I frequently get asked question like, how far along on we on X by managers and team leaders. I do not work on X, but I am being asked because if I do know the answer, my team leader knows I will give the honest answer (rather than telling them what they want to hear).

This is a classic case of "junior developer accidentally makes commitments to higher ups without realizing it." You are the most vulnerable member of your team because you are willing to spit out a number like, "Sue said we will be ready in about six weeks!" when Sue herself knew to be more noncommittal or take time to explain what needs to go well and what can go poorly.

By "taking notes" you are letting yourself take in more information that was told in the confidentiality of a standup, when people can be direct and honest and make mistakes, and omitting the presuppositions and context, and forwarding that intimate information to a party who just wants to hear the numbers that they wish is correct.

You are the last person who should be delivering news of estimates to higher ups. Notetaking during standup will miss the point all the more. Instead of learning updates from your teammembers so you can move each other along with your work, you are using these updates against them to people who should not be in the standup. Stop digging this hole.

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    Not really, I am using my notes to tell my leader what they said at the last stand up. Positive or Negative, if everything is great, then that's the update. If we are behind, or haven't started that's the update. Its not about using information against people. It about accurate reporting. – SaggingRufus Jun 21 '17 at 10:03
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    @SaggingRufus if you're avoiding numbers / due dates, it's a good sign. But you want to avoid taking accountability when others explicitly avoided doing so. – user42272 Jun 21 '17 at 13:20
  • That's a good point – SaggingRufus Jun 21 '17 at 14:05
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would it be acceptable for me to take notes at the daily stand up so I always know where every piece of work currently stands? or would that be considered a big no no.

Ask the leader of the meeting.

In most shops I have seen, nobody cares what you do as long as you speak concisely when it is your turn to talk and listen when it is other folks' turn.

In some stand up meetings, they do a "follow-on" for asking questions.

If you don't know in your case, ask.

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    In this case, I am leading the meeting. I just want to make sure I am doing things right – SaggingRufus Jun 20 '17 at 14:14
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In the comments you said you are working towards a SCRUM workflow, and this is one of the first steps.

Take notes only of (possible) problems/impediments, ideally the SCRUM master should do this. That way, you cannot forget to resolve these problems as soon as possible.

Taking notes of the status of all issues, is not useful. Especially with any kind of issue tracker, the status is already very clear! SCRUM allows you to plan certain tasks within a small (often two weeks) timeframe. Even if you do not do this yet, you will do this later down the road.

As far as any other non-team members are concerned, there are only three possible answers to the ETA of an issue: "not started", "in progress" and "done". The point here is that it will be done at the end of the planning you made, and that is the only reasonable guarantee you will give them.

If people want to know more details, they should be free to read your issue tracker. They should not be asking you (or any other of your team members) for this kind of detailed information, as it will be slowing your team down.

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I would pass on doing this because basically you turn into a de facto secretary by getting involved. Defer reporting on any status to the team lead or project manager if it's for projects that you're not involved in, because these people will start coming to you for answers and the next thing you know, they'll be asking you to collect answers on projects you're not even involved in.

It's like feeding pigeons. As long as you're throwing popcorn, they'll keep coming back... with their cousins, and their cousins' cousins, and so forth. Nip this status reporting thing in the bud.

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    Good answer, I'd even go so far as to say you shoudn't report on other peoples progress. You are probably very well informed but you aren't infallible. Occasionally you will make mistakes and people will blame you. It is your team leaders job to keep track of everyones progress. – Odalrick Jun 20 '17 at 15:06
  • @Odalrick point taken, but it's the team leader asking me for the update (if I know anything) which I will say "Last I heard on X day, this was the status, Bill would be the one to tell you where he is currently at" – SaggingRufus Jun 20 '17 at 16:16
  • @SaggingRufus Why is your teamleader asking you about a meeting you both attended? Unless your team leader isn't present on your daily stand up, that'd be extremely wierd. – Odalrick Jun 21 '17 at 7:37
  • @Odalrick The meetings only started last week and as of yet, the team leader does not come to the meetings – SaggingRufus Jun 21 '17 at 10:00
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I've been a participant in daily scrum team meetings in software development and a 'delegate' of our team to a scrum of scrums.

  • The daily scrum is in front of a whiteboard with sticky notes. The status of the stories can be altered during the daily, which is a form of taking written notes.
  • One of us would then go to the scrum of scrums. We tried to decide that beforehand, and if it was me I'd make a condensed record of our team daily on a notepad. This was to structure my delivery at the scrum of scrums, not a permanent record.
  • It was possible that high-priority bugs get pushed to a team during the daily scrum of scrums. If so, I'd always write that down on my pad, so I wouldn't get the number wrong.
  • I'd strike out items from the record as they were mentioned/handled/reported to the team. By the end of the day, there should be nothing left.

So yes, I'd take notes, but only as a short-term memory aid. The notes were not supposed to be a permanent record and were not transcribed completely into digital form.

  • this really all I want to do is take quick notes like one line so that if I am asked a question I can refer back to them quickly before answering. – SaggingRufus Jun 21 '17 at 10:28
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I do not work on X, but I am being asked, because if I do know the answer, my team leader knows I will give the honest answer (rather than telling them what they want to hear).

You should continue to tell them honestly that you do not know, then. It sounds like your team leader has a great attitude about this, but might be relying on you too heavily for things that are not your responsibility.

If you are looking to move up the chain, or get a raise, etc. then it's good to look for ways to improve your reliability and increase your responsibilities, but keeping tabs on your coworkers's tasks isn't that. Managers and their reports should be responsible for appropriately communicating between them how projects are moving along and the like. There's nothing wrong with your boss getting a secretary to help manage information and their schedule if they needs one, or splitting the team and hiring/promoting team leads below him, but it is not your job to track this information on your peers unless you/they are aiming to take on that kind of job. (You should, of course, have a good idea of the status of both solo and collaborative projects that you are actively a part of.)

It is odd that you are leading the team standup while the team leader is either absent or not paying attention. This is their job. Are you sure you are not beginning to manage the team? Does your team leader manage multiple teams? There may need to be a change to the process or reporting structure here.

Do take notes if they would be useful to you for your own purposes and those of your role. Stand-ups are meant to be an effective tool, don't let philosophical arguments prevent you from making them more effective for you. Don't, however, take notes in order to bridge a gap that has nothing to do with you.

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