Stand Up and Listen

Stand UpIt is often repeated that the daily stand Up in Scrum is not a status meeting, yet despite this I see many team members turning up to recite their answers to the three magical stand up questions. Having performed the ceremony, these team members return to their desks seemingly unaware that they have just wasted their time and the time of their team mates. Teams whose stand ups are run like this are more a group of individuals than a team.

The trick to taking your daily stand up to the next level is in actively listening to what each of your fellow team members has to say. I’ve compiled a selection of questions to ask yourself while you’re listening.

Interdependencies

  • Does what I’m doing effect what they’re doing?
  • Does what they’re doing effect what I’m doing?

Perhaps you’re about to break something they’re relying on or perhaps you’re about to fix something that will make things go a lot faster for them. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Either way, stand up is a good time to mention it and figure out how to organise around these dependencies. When answering the 3 questions for yourself try to proactively include anything that might effect others.

Support and Collaboration

  • Do I know something that will help them?
  • Impediments – can I help remove them?
  • Is there anything that needs to be discussed in more detail following stand up?

One of the main benefits of working in a team is the support system the team provides. Tasks shouldn’t be lumped on a single team member. If someone is struggling then that will likely become apparent at stand up. Rather than leaving them floundering the team should come together to handle the challenges as a group.

Self-Organization

  • Do I know of any reason why they shouldn’t do what they’re doing?
  • Is there anything they could/should be doing instead?

For teams to be self-organising we need to listen to each other and work out how it all fits together. By sharing the information we have with each other we can ensure that we work in the most effective way. This doesn’t mean that one person tells the others what to do, but everyone’s opinion is relevant, so have your say.

Progress

  • Are we working on the highest priority stories?
  • Are we tracking to get everything done?
  • Do we need to renegotiate scope with the Product Owner or find a smarter way to do things?

Stories should be in order on the scrum board so there’s visibility about what needs to get done first. This doesn’t mean we can’t be flexible with the order we work on things, but if the sprint is looking tight then we need to make sure that we don’t compromise the top priority items in preference of getting less important tasks done. It’s important to communicate with the Product Owner if there’s unexpected issues. Often a compromise can be found that will still cover most of the customers needs.

Motivation

  • What did the team achieve yesterday?
  • What will we achieve today?

Finally, reciting the answers to the 3 stand up questions can sometimes make people feel like every day is the same. Try to focus on what the team has achieved each day and what they are going to achieve in the coming day. This can help the team to focus and stay motivated.



Categories: Communication, Meetings

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Yes, yes, yes. Speaker: “What I’ve done, what you should know, what I need…” Group: “Ooh, waitaminute…”

    This goes into my “onboarding new team members” links and additional links for one of my upcoming posts on “Processes to Follow or Purposes to Lead.”

    Thanks.
    http://mattwe.wordpress.com/

  2. This is a great post.
    I do share the frustration when we loose the opportunity for meaningful communication and synchronization on our work in favor of a meaningless dumb ceremony. In general I had more success communicating to teams the value of standups and how to use them to actually manage their projects daily when focusing on the task board.
    We “walk the board” top to bottom and right to left. For each story the team members that participated or plan to work on a specific PBI development answers the three questions:

    What work have we completed yesterday within this story?
    What are we doing today to progress the story?
    What is hindering progress on this story?

    It’s a simple approach but it worked for all teams I had used it with. I’m not trying to be simplistic or pretend this is a universal solution, I’m sure there are teams that prefer and / or need the individual questioning. The advantage I see when walking the board is that changes the focus from the individuals into the team and its work product, which resulted in improved communication and collaboration within the team as well as helped making more advanced teams aware of its amount of WIP and its cycle time.
    Mike Cohn discussed it here: http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog/should-the-daily-standup-be-person-by-person-or-story-by-story.
    On a related note, I think the recently rewritten version of the questions within the Scrum Guide is also helping understand the purpose of it:

    What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
    What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
    Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

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