By Val Wanjura
Senior Program Manager
In Agile, the development team may meet daily for a stand-up. Each developer answers three questions.
- What did you work on yesterday?
- What are you planning on working on today?
- Are there any impediments/roadblocks in your way?
While the daily stand-up includes status updates around sprint work, it’s an important nuance that the purpose of a stand-up is to set the context for the day. The stand-up is a planning event that encourages the team to be self-organized and focused on working together to accomplish sprint goals.
It’s important for stand-ups to be short to keep them focused and inexpensive. Stand-ups regularly engage the team without adding a lot of overhead. Collaboration builds unity, keeps team members updated, encourages communication, and energizes the team. Keeping meetings focused reaffirms the sprint goals and the importance of meeting those goals.
Below are five ways to keep your stand-ups focused and effective.
1. Strictly adhere to the three-question format
Adhering to the format helps keep the meeting focused, reduces rambling, provides each developer equal talking time, moderates personality issues, and curbs irrelevant/less relevant questions and/or technical discussions. The format keeps the focus on sprint work.
Some companies allow members outside of the development team to attend stand-ups. Adhering to the three-question format should curb status updates or announcements which are irrelevant to the plan for the day and should be announced outside of the stand-up.
The wording of the three questions can be changed slightly to fit your organization and culture as long as the underlying essence of the questions remains.
2. Stand up near the board or have the board visible during remote meetings
Because the stand-up is a planning event that is focused on achieving sprint goals, having the board visible reinforces the agreed-upon plan and allows the entire team to visually see how the team is progressing toward the sprint goals.
I sometimes work with teams that are geographically spread out. For remote stand-ups, we display the Jira board during the call.
3. Inspire the team to be self-organizing
Anyone should be able to start the stand-up meeting. This practice helps meetings start on time and motivates team members to be prompt.
The meeting should happen even if the dev lead or scrum master is unable to attend. The nuance again is that the stand-up allows the team to be self-organized. Updates are given to other team members and not just to the dev lead or scrum master.
4. Do not wait for stand-ups to identify or voice blockers
If you notice team members waiting until stand-up to identify blockers, it may be an indication of an underlying process issue. Either the process is not defined well or not understood well by the team members.
Have an established process for how to handle blockers that developers should follow. At a minimum, this should include an escalation path and a timeframe for escalating. The most recent version should be available and accessible to everyone on the team.
5. Listen (and help)
The stand-up is a planning event, so when team members identify blockers or issues, other team members should volunteer to engage/help (after the stand-up).
It’s important that impediments are raised. It’s equally important that they are removed. It is normal for the stand-up to spark additional meetings and increased communication.
The team should listen for members that have the same update day after day. Anyone on the team should feel comfortable to address, help and/or follow up with each other to make sure that every team member is fully contributing to the team meeting the sprint goals.
A five-minute stand-up is achievable for teams up to 20 people when the purpose of the meeting is well-defined and understood within the team. Use a five-minute, focused stand-up to set the context for the day, so that every team member knows where the team is in regard to sprint work and the plan for achieving sprint goals.
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