Professional Man Preparing for a Daily Stand Up

Preparing for a Daily Stand-Up

The daily stand-up meeting easiest Agile practice to adopt and the easiest to get wrong.  In order to get it right, we need to understand the basic process and the most common variants. These include interacting with task lists/boards and distributed team members. The basic process is blindingly simple.

  1. The team gathers on a daily basis.
  2. Each team member answers three basic questions:
    1. What tasks did I complete since the last meeting;
    2. What tasks do I intend to complete before the next meeting, and
    3. What are the issues blocking my progress.
  3. The meeting ends team members returning to work OR discussing other items.

This is the barest bones version of stand-up meeting.  The meeting is typically attended by the whole team; which includes the scrum master/coach, the product owner and all other team members.  Arguably while the product owner is not a required participant based on the published Scrum guidelines, their central role makes them an important contributor to the meeting when questions about direction come up. I advise team members to discuss whether the product owner will participate (highly recommended) when they develop the Agile team charter and add participation to the team norms.

The most common process addition is the inclusion of a task list/board, either as a physical list often found on the wall of a team room or virtually through the use of a software tool. The team will use the board to guide the discussion.  The tasks they talk about should be on the wall or in the tool.  Sometimes teams adopt a rule that the team members do not work on items not on the wall (or tool). The task list focuses the team and provides visual feedback as tasks change status.

You will need to add the following steps to the process when using a list or board:

  1. Ensure that all participants can see and interact with the list during the stand-up and throughout the day.
  2. Update the board or tool in as close to real time as possible.

Lists and boards can get out of sync with reality.  Out-of-sync tools deliver bad information and can lead to work failing through the cracks.  When tools or task list are used they must be kept up to-date. Each team member must keep his or her tasks up-to-date.  This is not the scrum master/coaches role; they are not project administrators.

Distributed teams, teams where one or more team members are in a different location, present several challenges, including time zones, accents, organization affiliation and sometimes language. In general, the stand-up meeting should be basically the same, regardless of the participant’s location. Typically, what does change are the tools needed to make the meeting effective. Videoconference or good teleconference equipment is an absolute must, as is access to the task list (a virtual tool is useful).

You will need to add the following steps to the process when the team is distributed:

  1. Ensure that everyone on the team can see and hear each other.  This typically means securing or scheduling video or teleconferencing facilities.
  2. Ensure that all participants can see and interact with the list during the stand-up and throughout the day.
  3. Update the board or tool in as close to real time as possible.

The stand-up meeting is a simple meeting that Agile teams hold on a daily basis to plan and synchronize activities.  Adding lists and tools can make the meeting more effective by focusing team effort, BUT adding lists and tools means that the team needs to keep them up to date and use them!  If we add complications such as distributing the team, virtual tools become a necessity. I have had to ask more than one team what value they were getting from a stand-up if part of the team couldn’t hear and participate.

Advertisements