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Project Management

Daily Stand-Up In Agile

The daily stand-up serves a very important function in the Agile cycle, but it can become a significant distraction if not done well. This meeting should help the team achieve its goals, and not become a chore that it must perform to satisfy a management directive.

Here are a few ideas for you to keep in mind to make your daily meetings live up to their potential:

Communications: Focus the daily stand-up on communicating, not reporting.

If your meeting becomes simply a forum to present individual progress reports, you are wasting valuable time—send an email instead. Email reports can provide an adequate record of progress. If, however, you use the daily stand-up to let team members discuss daily progress and request additional assistance, you’ll encourage team interaction, provide transparency for your project, and keep the project on track.

In a post on BrightHub.com, Ronda Levine noted that a daily stand-up should meet five goals: recommit the team members to the project as a team, communicate the project status, identify any obstacles the team has encountered, set the day’s direction, and help the team build cohesiveness. Reporting meetings may be able to meet some of these goals, but to satisfy all of the goals, your meetings need to be collaborative and interactive.

Discussion: Don’t let daily stand-ups become in-depth problem-solving discussions.

Daily stand-ups should uncover any obstacles that team members are facing, but should not be a prolonged discussion of how to solve problems. Use the meeting to discover how (in general terms) a problem could be dealt with and who can help with an issue, but leave the specifics for addressing the problem outside of the group meeting. (Discuss the problem-solving specifics immediately after the daily stand-up, while the details of the problem are still fresh in everyone’s mind and solving the problem will allow further progress). Remember that the stand-up should be brief, to allow people to share information and then get back to creating products and satisfying customer requirements.

Logistics: Be consistent with meeting logistics.

Select a location and time for daily stand-ups and stick to them. Consider holding the meeting in a common area near the project story boards to allow presenters to use the boards to clarify points. Also consider holding the meeting at the start of the workday, when energy levels are high and the entire day is available to solve problems and complete tasks. Be sure that you start and end the meetings on time; people will be more likely to attend if they know that the stand-up is timeboxed and they can get back to work. (For distributed or dispersed teams, don’t forget to consider time-zone differences when scheduling the meeting.) Consider arranging team members so that presenters are grouped in the center of the area, with observers behind them, to ensure that the meeting is about team collaboration, not about input from outsiders.

Guidelines: Set guidelines for the stand-up.

Make sure that team members record their progress on the burndown chart (or burn-up chart) before the meeting begins so that the most current information is available for discussion. Establish rules that will determine who will speak first, then who will speak next, and so on. (For example, perhaps the person who arrives to the stand-up last must begin the conversation, or the person who occupies a specific spot in the room must speak first, then select the next speaker.) Make sure the communication is among the team, not to the project manager or product owner. (If this proves difficult, you may want to instruct the manager to look away or walk away from the presenter while he or she is speaking, to reinforce that this is a collaborative team meeting, not a management progress report.) Set ground rules that describe which issues members can raise in the meeting—can members discuss only issues they need help with, or can they also share information about any problems they can overcome themselves? And make sure that any issues or impediments uncovered are fixed before the next day’s stand-up.

Following these practices will help you hold more productive meetings. Daily stand-ups should be something that team members attend because they see the value in these meetings, not because it is a management or project requirement to do so.

Recommended for you Agile and Project Management: Beyond Software Development

Mini case: The Daily Stand-up

“I won’t be attending today’s stand-up.”

It’s 15 minutes before the daily meeting is scheduled to start, and Sal Wiggins has just walked into Christine Kuharski’s office. Christine has been working with the Vista Inc. team, transitioning to the use of Agile practices. Things have gone well, with a few minor issues along the way, but Wiggins’ announcement could cause real problems. If Christine allows Sal to skip the daily meeting, others may follow suit, which could derail the entire process.

Kuharski quickly hides her concern and asks Wiggins, “Can I ask why?”

“It’s a waste of time,” Wiggins said. “I can just send an email to everyone to tell them what I’m working on. I am having a little trouble with one part of my project but I’ll just meet one-on-one with Audrey; she’s an expert on it and she can show me how to deal with it. Besides, we have too many people from management who butt in and try to take over the meeting. For instance, Andrew is constantly interrupting and then we spiral off on topics that eat up time and make the meeting a joke, as far as I am concerned.”

Kuharski has to agree with Wiggins that the management observers have been too vocal in the daily meetings. And there have been times when the discussion drifted, but there have been other times when productive discussion advanced the project.

Nonetheless, Wiggins is a key player on the team and Kuharski knows that his involvement is crucial for success.

Question

Answer the question in the textbox, then click Submit to compare your answer to an answer written by an experienced project manager.

What should Kuharski do to address this issue?

Suggested/Sample Response :

Wiggins is missing the point of the daily stand-up—the meeting is about communicating among the team, not just reporting on status. The daily meetings should create a sense of team commitment and cohesiveness. These meetings are not just updates on project progress; they should keep the team focused and working as a group to develop solutions quickly and efficiently.

The interactive nature of the meetings also works as an efficient information-distribution mechanism. If Wiggins meets with Audrey one-on-one to discuss a specific problem, other team members don’t gain the benefit of any insights that may surface. Discussing issues with the entire team present ensures that knowledge is shared.

Kuharski will have to re-explain the benefits of the daily stand-up to Wiggins. She’ll need to stress that the meeting benefits are reciprocal—Wiggins can gain significant knowledge by attending the meeting and he’ll be able to help others by sharing his expertise and knowledge. Not attending will affect team cohesiveness and harm team interaction. Kuharski will also have to communicate with the people who are observing the meeting that their interruptions are distracting and detrimental to the team.

Recommended for you The Agile Manifesto and The Agile Declaration of Interdependence

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