You Are Asking the Wrong Questions

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You Are Asking the Wrong Questions

Three simple things for better stand-ups

· Agile Zone ·
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Recently I was chatting to a mate and mid converstaion he told me he had to leave to attend stand-up with the these words:

Anyway let me prep for my standup meeting
scariest part of my day

Of course I couldn’t leave it there and just had to know why he found stand-ups to be scary. These are his actual responses copied from our chat, my own questions and comments have been redacted to cut to the core.

I don’t work for the project or the product
I work for tomorrows stand up
Yeah, I don’t understand stand ups
In my mind it’s management wanting to to track how I spent my day yesterday
Keeping tabs

I believe lots of people feel this way as I certainly have. The reason for this is that a lot of stand-ups are status updates that focus on what the individual is doing instead of focussing on the more pressing matter: Is the team reaching its goals?

How many stand-ups have you attended where the group is low on energy and go around in a circle answering the same questions: What did you do yesterday, what are you doing today, are there any blockers?

The status of a sprint should be visible at any time on a Kanban board. Going around in circles rehashing what’s on the board is a waste of time and if this is what your team is doing it’s time to stop and try a new format.

Stand-up needs to be the time when you check the health of the sprint and the team.

Do a Mood Check

Instead of talking about what you are busy with, go around and talk about your current state of mind and feelings. It’s a scary idea, telling your co-workers how you feel, but this type of openess will help strengthen the bond in your team. Track the overall team mood as it is a good item to talk about in retro.

You don’t have to divulge every personal detail about your life, but it’s important to bring the human factor into our teams so that work ins’t just transactional.

Focus on the Goals

Look at your Kanban board and talk about the work and what is needed to progress it to the next stage. Is everything on track or do we need to adjust some plans? Identify issues and agree on who will take ownership to resolve it.

The focus is the work items currently in play. Work in progress does not add client value, completed work adds value (no matter how small).

Check the Team Confidence

At the and of stand up do a quick confidence vote. Each member gives a score out of 10 indicating how strongly they believe, given the current state of work and information available, that the team can reach its goals. If there are major discrepancies talk about it and vote again. At the beginning of a sprint the score should ideally be 10, else you have committed to more than you believe you can deliver. Track these scores as well for discussion during retro.

Parting Thoughts

Stand-up is not the time to feel like your performance is being questioned. Performance is something that should be managed in private by your manager.

We don’t want to pressure the individual, but encourage group ownership to ensure that the team reaches its goals.

adopting agile, agile anti patterns, scrum, standups

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