Keeping aligned is really important to Agile teams and, according to the Scrum methodology, daily stand-up meetings are the tool of choice for that. When done effectively, they provide visibility and transparency to all stakeholders. Just as importantly, they help the team catch problems early. Our take on this practice was creating a bot to run the stand-ups and let us have them asynchronously, which really worked for us since we’ve embraced working remote.
Generally speaking, daily meetings bring a lot of benefits for the performance and communication of development teams. So, it’s no surprise that you can find lots of recommendations on “how to” lead them. Here is our very own contribution to this list:
1. Focus on getting updates from the team
According to Scrum, there are three key questions that every team member must come ready to answer:
- What did you complete since the last meeting?
- What are you planning to work on today
- Is there any issue that may prevent you from making progress?
To which we add a fourth question,
- How confident are you that you are going to get “it” done?
Admittedly, this really is another way of asking the “any issues?” questions but you’ll be surprised how many times somebody will say “no, no issues” and a minute later will say “well, I am only 50% confident I’ll make it.” And this gives the team an opportunity to figure out if there’s a real obstacle on the way.
2. Always Be On Time
The meeting must start at the time scheduled, no matter what. Everybody in the team must understand the importance of the meeting and commit to starting on time. One obvious way to enforce the rule is to start on time, even if you’re by yourself.
3. 15 Minute Time-Box
If these meetings take longer than 15 minutes, people will get bored and lose their engagement. Doing short meetings is a must. In fact, if the meetings are taking more than 15 minutes, then something else is going on during the meetings besides aligning on progress. If the team is too big (i.e., more than eight people), then split it and you’ll have a better chance to keep the meetings on time and effective.
4. Long Discussions
Sometimes meetings lose focus and they start wandering all over the place. To make sure this doesn’t get out of hand, there must a person moderating the meeting and keeping the discussion on the subject. The moderator doesn’t have to say much, “Excuse me, but let’s have that discussion offline,” will do.
5. Make it Visual
Progress should be represented in a visual way. You should arrange the visual space in a way that the team can have a clear idea of all the updates: tasks that are done, those in progress, and the ones not yet started. We use Scrum whiteboard, visible for all the team members. We also use Mingle, JIRA and Rally with different client teams. We are also evaluating VersionOne.
Team members must report on their status every day. It is also very important that they have the opportunity to make their own changes on the board or whatever other tools you use.
6. Identify Blockers
Identify and remove blockers as a top priority. The whole team is responsible for this, not just the Scrum master or the product owner.
It is also important to identify who’s the right person to deal with each action item. Adding a blockers section may help you track blockers on the whiteboard. This way, they would always be visible and progress will be tracked.
7. The Team Is Most Important
The meeting is not intended to report to anyone in particular (e.g., the Scrum master). Actually, the meeting is to let the whole team know what each member is working on and whether you are running into any issues.
The meeting is for the team, by the team.
We don’t want people to behave as they have to report to someone. We see the “command and control” behavior as something that is not good for the health of teams.
8. Don’t Blog or Email or … During Daily Meetings
Be sure that during the meeting no one is in front of a computer unless is required to support the meeting itself (e.g., an online visualization tool). Meetings are for discussions and not typing, reading or doing something different than participating.
Relax. Stop coding for a bit. It’s worth it.
Daily meetings are a good tool, but also they might turn into a time sync if not managed tightly. As much as people complain about meetings, they are often all too happy to let them drift into the endless pits. The mantra of keeping them short and on target will reap countless benefits. And maybe the practice will spread to other time syncs … er … I mean, meetings.
We've been working on tools for Agile events. We have an Agile Retrospectives for Confluence add-on and our Scrum Poker tool for efficient and accurate sprint planning!
Let us know what you think about them.