“Yesterday I worked on US2846, today I’ll be working on US5378. I have no impedements.” Does this sound like one of your standup meetings? If that does sound familiar, I’d like to challenge you to ask yourself, “Does this provide value to my team?”
I have participated in stand ups that are barely more than phrases like that, successively provided by each member of the team, at many of my clients. If your stand ups sound like this, I would encourage you to examine what value a meeting like this is bringing to your team. Sure, this allows the project manager or scrum master to get a status report and fill out the burn down chart, but is there something more we could be getting out of our time in this meeting? Let’s explore the purpose behind the daily stand up in more detail.
The daily stand up provides an opportunity for team members to make commitments to each other about the progress they plan to make today towards the team goal. This is a powerful concept. Having team members make commitments to each other about the work they plan to accomplish rather than some higher authority leading the project frames the commitment in a way that increases team cohesion and cooperation. Rather than being beholding to an authority figure who is pushing the team member to achieve some goal, that person is now accountable by each and every member of that team. Peers that, hopefully, are respected and appreciated by the team member. Perhaps most importantly, people that she doesn’t want to let down.
Another powerful concept behind the practice of the daily stand up is the ability to identify ans bring to the surface issues that may soon become impediments to the team. I the example I gave above, few if any of the other team members would have any idea what that individual was working on unless they had the IDs of every user story in the sprint memorized. While this does happen, I suggest it’s not the best way to report status to your fellow team members. What I have found to be more effective is to encourage team members to provide the full title of the task and user story being worked to give the rest of the team the full picture of what is being done. This not only helps the other team members to understand the nature of the commitment being made, it also helps everyone to identify potential conflicts with the work they are doing so that the two can get together after the meeting to discuss their impacts on each other.
All team members should be encouraged to report any obstacles they are facing at the daily stand up. It’s much better if we can report obstacles as they come up so that they can be dealt with immediately, but we should be doing so at least once each day and the stand up provides us an opportunity for that conversation to take place. Perhaps the most important duty of the scrum master, project manager, team lead, or whatever you call the person guiding your project direction, is to deal with obstacles that the team is facing and remove them. This allows the team to focus on the work that needs be done to deliver the commitment we made to the customer. Make sure that your team is using this time to bring those obstacles out into the open and get them addressed.
An Agile team should always be moving together towards a common goal that the team has committed to accomplishing. It’s one of the most powerful and under appreciated aspects of Agile development. Make sure that your team is using the daily stand up as an opportunity to report progress towards that goal and identify course corrections that need to be made in order to stay on track.