Can them what you will – Daily Scrum, a Huddle or a Stand-up, but whatever you call it a Stand-up is one of the simplest Agile (and arguably knowledge and service management) practices out there. Three questions are answered by the “core team”:
- What I’ve done since we last met…
- What I plan on doing till we next meet…
- What is impeding me or may soon…
Simple right? Wrong!
These very simplistic set of steps have led many to believe that the key purpose of a Stand-up is as a progress report. To set the record straight:
The key purpose of a Stand-up is the opportunity to collaborate, share and support each other in the delivery of valuable outcomes.
For those that may not have heard of the above interpretation of a Stand-up’s purpose then let’s take the opportunity to understand it further. As each person answers the three questions what the rest of the team should be doing is listening and wondering to themselves the following questions:
- How will this impact me?
- How will this help me?
- Will my work impact them?
- Can I help them?
- Can I potentially learn from something they are doing?
- Can something I’ve done in the past be useful so that they can learn from it or re-use it?
If the answer is ‘Yes!’ to any of these questions then the team member should pipe up and respond. An effective Stand-up isn’t just the team turning up on time and answering the three questions – it is where teams work together to deliver and reach the delivery goals whilst always upholding the values and principles.
Another common Stand-up myth is that they should be 100% valuable to 100% of the core team 100% of the time. This is simply not the case. As we now understand what an effective Stand-up is you will be lucky to find these opportunities consistently and rarely more than three times in a single Stand-up. In fact, you might go through a few Stand-ups before such an opportunity arises – these uncommon instances of “I’d love to learn more about how to do that, care we pair?”, or “I’ve had a similar problem on my last project let me send through to you what we did”, or “I know that person well, let me talk to them and try to push the impediment out” are what make good Stand-ups.
We’ve all heard of tips like taking difficult conversations offline, ensuring everyone can be heard and timeboxing each person to no more than 2 minutes but here are a few tips that I would additionally recommend to make Stand-ups a little more effective:
- Touch your cards. If you don’t do this as you are talking the team is mentally trying to match the first sentence of what you said to the Story Wall. As they are doing that mental matching they are no longer listening to what you saying which consequently invalidates the value of the Stand-up.
- Take 2-3 mins before the Stand-up to jot down what you want to remark on. If you don’t do this you dramatically increase the likelihood that you are spending time, whilst others are talking, concentrating on what you are about to say. You need to be in the moment of what the team are saying, not what you are about to do.
- Jot down any issues or risks remarked on. Ensure that they are visibly attached to stories with clear owners and status/actions.
- Hold each other accountable if a team member is talking about work that isn’t reflected on the Story Wall – get the story written up and prioritised against everything else on the go.
Note: Astute Agilistas will notice the subtle changes in the core three questions. Primarily this is because I have seen effective Stand-ups that whilst they are regular and frequent shift away from the activity being daily. Additionally I like to tack on the “or may soon” to the last question because whilst the question focuses on issues the “may soon” is a focus on possible risks.