01 October 2013

Yet Another Meeting?! How to Make the Daily Scrum (or Stand-Up) Meeting Work for Your Team


Let's cut to the chase:  No one likes meetings.  A status meeting every day is enough to drive you crazy.

The Stand-Up isn't meant to be a status meeting.  Status may get communicated, and extracted by the ScrumMaster (SM) if he or she is paying attention, but that's not the purpose of this meeting.

The Stand-Up is a daily tactical planning meeting: Of, by, and for the team.  For teams who need to collaborate (and I would suggest that there is no other kind, but that's a digression), this brief daily huddle creates visibility into what is needed by each team member today.

The Three Questions

You may know the three questions: (1) What did I do yesterday? (2) What am I doing today? (3) What are my impediments?

Each person takes turns answering these three.  Sounds like a status meeting, right?

Let's reword them:

1. What did I provide or learn yesterday that the team needs to know about?
2. What do I hope to accomplish today and whom do I need to collaborate with to get that done?
3. What's preventing me from doing my best professional work?

Sorry I'm Late, But Not Real Sorry

When people are consistently late to, or absent from, this meeting, it's because the meeting has lost its value.  Rather than creating some form of punishment/reward system to attract people, or simply canceling the meeting, we need to uncover the root problem, and take action to solve that.

Is the meeting at a bad time?  Try moving it. A lot of teams use 11:45am.  Usually folks are available then, and it's nearly guaranteed not to run long. Many follow-up discussions can happen during lunch.

Are people reporting task status to the SM?  Try holding a no-electronics huddle. (Update Jira before or after.) Can't remember what you did yesterday?  Take a minute or two prior to the huddle to write down what happened since the previous stand-up, and what you will be working on today.  Got nothing done, or your task is lingering in the "In Progress" state for more than a day? Think about what's impeding you, or with whom you'd like to collaborate to get that task completed. In other words, stop expecting yourself to shoulder all blame, or heroically accomplish each and every task, alone.

Someone shows up consistently a few minutes late?  I recommend starting the meeting on-time, every time.  If they miss something, they can ask someone to get them caught up afterwards. Besides, there's another stand-up tomorrow.  The habitually late person is responsible for finding his own strategy for on-time arrival.  (I was that person many decades ago, in high school, so my mother introduced me to black coffee. On-time, and my grades improved!  Your mileage may vary.)

Particularly with this team meeting, it's important that one individual cannot delay everyone else. This applies to your SM, PO, CEO, and POTUS. It's not their meeting. They are always welcome to schedule something afterwards (and perhaps buy the team lunch?)

This Won't Hurt a Bit

If the team feels that some part of their day-to-day work activities are uncomfortable or unnatural, ask them if they would like to invite an agile coach in to observe and make some recommendations.

A coach is not a manager: More like a "team doctor." Having someone intrude and observe may be uncomfortable, too, but the goal is the overall health of the team.

The daily stand-up contains much more than task progress: it often reveals the attitude of the whole team and hints at systemic dysfunctions. If your stand-ups are dull, too long, frustrating, mechanical, or contentious, then let the coach see all that. Good coaches don't blame individuals for a systemic symptom: The coach is there to identify challenges and help the team find an agreeable set of adjustments. We want to see the team create its own way of working that is professional, productive, supportive, exciting, and sane.