When was the last time you went to a 1 hour meeting with 10 things on the agenda and actually got through the whole agenda? How many of you reading this can honestly say the last meeting you were in was productive?
All Agile project management modalities advocate time-boxing. The Scrum Book of Knowledge (S.B.O.K.) defines time-boxing as “setting short periods of time for work to be done”. Time-boxing provides structure in an Agile project which can often be characterized by uncertainty and change.
There are a variety of time-boxing ceremonies. The Sprint, Spring Planning, Sprint Review, and The Retrospective are all great tools to have in your tool kit. My personal favourite, and one I continue to use in my operation of SLIDE21, is the Daily Stand-up.
The Daily Stand-Up is often a source of debate and contention in Agile implementations. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve seen organizations who run (what they think are) Daily Stand-ups like this:
EVERY OTHER DAY for anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes with only some of the team members present while sitting down.
THE PRINCIPLE OF IT
Let’s be clear: Time-boxing is one of six Scrum principles. This means that it is non-negotiable if you want to consider your project an Agile one. The Daily Stand-up is handled in the following way:
- It lasts for 15 minutes
- It takes place at the same time each day
- The team is asked to stand
- 3 questions (and 3 questions only) are to be addressed
The daily stand-up is not a formal meeting, not a place to solve problems, nor is it a forum to brainstorm ideas. It is a touchstone for grounding, for accountability, for communication.
THE DISCIPLINE OF IT
If a team cannot commit itself to this simple practice, I often wonder what other areas of their jobs they are unable to commit to or be disciplined about. And worse, if the Scrum Master doesn’t have enough knowledge or insight to understand the fundamental importance of this discipline, how well can the project possibly turn out?
THE ESSENCE OF IT
There are no rules which suggest that the Daily Stand-Up must be conducted first thing in the morning. The team should decide when and where. Then, answer these 3 questions in this order:
1. What have you done since we last met to help achieve the sprint goal?
2. What will you do today to help achieve the sprint goal? &
3. What if anything is impeding your way to achieving the sprint goal?
NO MORE, NO LESS – THAT’S IT, FULL STOP.
Any departures from these questions represent unnecessary diversions that have potentially egregious consequences to the project.
READ BETWEEN THE LINES
The Daily Stand-Up is short and sweet. But it is a great opportunity for the Scrum Master and the team alike to read between the lines and informally evaluate risk, mood of the team, and delivery trajectory.
Any impediments cited are without question potential risks. Who knew – a daily update for risk management! Risks of course should be escalated accordingly, outside the Daily Stand-Ups, and through the proper channels.
The mood of the team may give an indication of, for instance, how well the team may or may not be tracking to completion; or frustration with clarity of user stories; or access to stakeholders; or constraints. A great Scrum Master will take note of this and address it when and where appropriate but again, and I cannot stress this enough, not during the meeting.
Synchronization and coordination of efforts is the driving force behind the Daily Stand-ups. Understanding where one individual may be facing challenges may give insight to all team members about additional support or better coordination that is needed, or simply provide information and where to focus efforts. This is for the team to decide.
WE ARE NOT ROBOTS!
People are not expected to conduct themselves as robots and simply provide a monotone response to the 3 questions before shutting up and standing at attention. We do not need to be militant about the handling of the meeting or the delivery of the information so much as we need to ensure that what is most important and essential to the continuation of the project is brought forth.
Every day, the Daily Stand-Up provides a chance for Empirical Process Control as we foster transparency and allow for inspection and adaptation. Via Collaboration, we create awareness and articulate our challenges and successes.
Find out more about how to implement Scrum into your work life by contacting us here.