Standing Up?

Shu Ha Ri has become a common pattern transplanted from martial arts into the agile vocabulary.  The pattern describes the learning journey from student to master. Students follow their masters, and masters create new patterns of knowledge to teach students. A common issue I observe in many organizations and teams is that as a person, team, or organization matures their agile and lean practice they let the basics atrophy. It’s almost as if there is a gremlin that whispers in practitioners’ ears, “basics are for learners, you are a master.” This laxness is observed and emulated. The Daily Scrum or standup meeting is a case in point. 

One of the most common bad behaviors/antipatterns I have titled the Daily All Hands Meeting. In this scenario, every potential stakeholder shows up and grills the team about their progress.

The daily meeting has become a fixture for most teams. In some cases, the fact that a team gets together on a daily is used as evidence of agility. Almost every flavor of agile calls for some form of this behavior because these meetings deliver some value. Every team and group has a style, therefore they create a variety of approaches even in structured approaches like Scrum. Every tweak and approach makes sense and delivers value to the people that create. That pride of authorship means someone will always resist change. The problem often that the tweaked process not focused on the core team the people getting value from the hybrid approach really should not be an active participant in the standup. 

The goal of the daily meeting is as a planning and replanning exercise for the core team. The Scrum Master/facilitator, product owner, and technical personnel (in a software team roles would include coders, testers, BA, and others) all have active roles – they are the core team. The facilitator is there to help move things along and ensure the conversation is between team members; they have the least active role. Others not part of the core team, if invited at all, do not have active roles. I often observe managers, executives, product managers, and a variety of other stakeholders that come to Daily Scrums and actively participate. 

Take a step back and observe what is happening in your daily meeting. Seek to understand what is happening before trying to facilitate a solution.  Start by asking yourself:

  1. Who is attending
  2. Who is participating?
  3. What purpose does this meeting serve (not what is supposed to be)?

After you understand what is happening, use a retrospective to find a solution that gets the Daily Scrum/Standup Meeting back to its core purpose: planning and replanning (retrospectives can be used to solve problems at any time). Find another solution for other data and information needs. Learning the purpose of the daily meeting generally reduces the length of the meeting, the boredom of team members not involved in conversations, and increases the value a team can deliver.  

Next: Manager Lead Daily Scrums