According to Google data, the query 'I hate daily scrums' gets several monthly searches. Even if few people look for that, you can sense a similar feeling in digital communities, where not-so-nice posts and hilarious memes pop up once every now and then… And we totally get it.
It might be annoying for some to connect to a meeting when, sometimes, there are little to no relevant updates. If you have been considering shuffling things and adding a little change to improve your team's communication flows, you could try a different cadence for your stand-up meetings.
Topics to check
- Responsibilities assignment
a. Roles in Scrum
b. Roles in Kanban
c. Why not a RACI?
- Weekly work plan
a. Weekly Scrum
b. How to run a Scrum meeting
- Asynchronous stand-ups
a. Using Stand-Bot
1. Responsibilities assignment
Nowadays, Scrum is used in several industries beyond software development, where it originated. Being called a 'lightweight framework', it's pretty easy to adopt and has proven effective for teams whose work outcome isn't predictable at all. Steve Martin highlights three characteristics of 'predictability in business':
- Teams behave according to set expectations.
- Production can be accurately declared in advance.
- Delivery dates are most likely to be fulfilled.
That said, a Scrum meeting (Daily or Weekly Scrum) is a the team gathering meant to review the flow of work items that should be accomplished before the sprint ends. They are also called stand-up meetings and are a critical ceremony of Scrum.
It's important to consider how predictable the work scope of your team will be before choosing an adequate framework. Scrum is better suited for unpredictable projects, but stand-up meetings can be helpful either with it or another more linear approach (such as Kanban).
a. Roles in Scrum
Traditional Scrum teams tend to be composed of three central figures:
The Product Owner (PO), whose primary responsibility is to make sure that the work delivered by the team actually maximizes the value that the product can provide to its users. Some other of the POs activities are:
- Developing the product goal and effectively communicating it to all stakeholders.
- Consolidating the product backlog and ensuring the team has a clear understanding of the items in it.
The Scrum Master (SM) role is that of a facilitator. The SM is accountable for the effectiveness of the team to perform their job, with responsibilities such as:
- Removing blockers so other team members can do their job.
- Ensuring all the required Scrum events are rightfully performed.
The Scrum Development Team refers to the engineers or specialists who will solve the tasks required to maximize the product's value. Some of its additional activities are:
- Sticking to what the whole team has established a definition of done for their deliveries.
- Helping to estimate how much effort solving an issue might take.
If you want to dig deeper into the roles of Scrum, don't miss our article on How to adopt Scrum, which is very handy for beginners.
b. Roles in Kanban
Not so many people seem to talk about the roles in Kanban. According to Kanbanize's blog, there are two leading roles.
The Service Delivery Manager (SDM) is focused on improving the efficiency of the workflows, with two main functions:
- Making sure that the work items get resolved.
- Fostering continuous improvement practices.
The Service Request Manager (SRM) primary responsibility is to understand the customer or business's needs and prioritize work. Some of the SRM activities are:
- Ordering work items from the backlog.
- Ensuring consistency of processes and reducing personnel risk.
It's important to note that roles in Kanban aren't as time-consuming as those in Scrum. These might not be formal positions, so anyone in the team may serve as SDM or SRM as it's required.
c. RACI vs Agile
Some organizations opt for a hybrid approach, such as assigning a Project Manager (PM) to work on a project or product. Remember that agile frameworks aren't a methodology that should be strictly followed but rather a set of elements that can be adopted in almost any business environment.
That said, the addition of a PM might bring in some project management practices, such as the establishment of a RACI, an acronym that stands for:
- Responsible - The people who do the work.
- Accountable - The work owner must make sure tasks are assigned and delivered.
- Consulted - Active participants who approve and sign-off work before it's considered done.
- Informed - Stakeholders who must be kept in the loop but don't actively participate.
Daniel Wilhite, a software engineer manager at Bright Health, considers that implementing a RACI in a Scrum environment can be senseless, as he puts it:
Everyone is responsible for the work that is being done, even the stakeholder, because they are responsible for helping to determine the correct direction that the product/team takes.
Everyone is accountable for the work that is being done, even the stakeholder, because they are accountable for helping to determine the correct direction that the product/team takes.
Everyone is consulted for the work done, even the stakeholder, because they are consulted to determine that the product/team's direction is delivering the needed value.
Everyone is informed of the work done, even the stakeholder because they are informed to garner discussion on the correct direction that the product/team takes.
We stick to Daniel's consideration and think that the best approach to defining roles in an agile environment would be to use the Scrum or Kanban ones.
2. Weekly work plan
Clearly stating roles and responsibilities will help work to flow smoothly. Now it's the time to make sure your team meets on a cadence that fuels collaboration and accountability without forcing people to over-report stuff.
Defining how many weekly meetings should take place goes hand in hand with how healthy team dynamics are and how clear the work is to be performed. Consider the following:
The ideal way to manage this in Scrum is to establish sprints, which tend to be work cycles with a duration of between two to three weeks.
On the other side, Kanban doesn't require splitting your calendar in sprints. The work is usually continuously flowing, with the backlog constantly receiving new items and a certain degree of predictability.
a. Weekly Scrum
Whichever agile framework the team adopts, they should be meeting regularly. We've already gone through that. We won't discuss daily stand-ups, as we want to explore more sparse options, such as limiting them to Monday or Friday.
Apart from making sure the chosen rhythm meets your needs, you should stick to some good practices that will make your stand-ups productive.
Traditionally, daily stand-ups have a 15-minute duration, but weekly Scrums might require more time. However, we suggest that your sessions don't exceed an hour in the period to keep them sound and effectively leverage the benefits of not meeting daily.
b. How to run a Scrum meeting?
First of all: Keep it simple. You can use the following structure as a cornerstone:
Greet everybody - Briefly introduce any new or notable attendees when needed.
Recap the last meeting - What was solved? What was not?
General announcements - Are there any changes to the project to be aware of?
Questions round - Learn what everybody is up to. The classic formula would be something like:
- What have you accomplished since the last session?
- What are you currently working on?
- Are there any blockers standing in your way?
Wrap-up - State the general progress expected for that day and some starting points for the next one.
Sticking to that template should be enough to hold successful sessions. You can learn more insights to run ideal stand-up meetings in our article Speed-up your daily stand-ups while keeping them effective.
3. Asynchronous stand-ups
Hosting more sparse sessions is step one in the path of saving more time for your team to solve their tasks. You can always take things to the next level with asynchronous stand-ups, which don't rely on gathering all the squad together simultaneously, so no one has to worry about finding a spot that suits everyone's schedule.
Our method of choice to run asynchronous meetings uses Stand-Bot, a specialized tool that's easy to set up.
a. Using Stand-Bot
Stand-Bot has unique features to fit the needs of any kind of team, regardless of whether the members work at the exact location or are distributed across different regions. It uses Slack to communicate with them and ask three questions:
- What are you working on today?
- What will you work on tomorrow?
- Do you have any blockers?
It will reach only the people you choose when you assign. And as said before, configuring it is pretty intuitive.
See Stand-Bot in action in this video:
Its Premium Plan lets you further customize your sessions, with the capacity of tailoring questions to learn exactly what you need (ideal for weekly Scrums). It also keeps an entire history of all your sessions, making it easy to go back and check any detail that might be relevant or just to help you keep track of your Agile metrics.
Stand-Bot has facilitated more than 470K stand-ups for companies such as Stackify, Algorithmia, and Online Visions due to its intuitiveness and simplicity to start using it straight out of the box.
It can also connect to your Jira projects and even lets you attach issues to your status reports for a broader picture with details of how the Sprint develops. It is also designed to help you do proper follow-ups.
An excellent way to increase some teams' agility is to reduce the number of stand-ups. This option will not always be the most adequate to deal with all projects, but a mature group should be aware of this technique to apply it may it come in handy. Remember that the most important asset of your framework is the people working within it.
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