Saturday, 20 April 2013

Do not stand up in the morning, do it at lunch, and again

The Daily Stand Up, a meeting where everyone stands up (to ensure it does not go on for too long), often referred to as the Daily Scrum by projects using Scrum methodology, is often scheduled in every morning.

And by early it is often the first thing in the morning. E.g. 9am.

There are good reasons for people picking that time slot.

* It gives people a clear idea of what they will be working on today.
* It minimises any unfocused time from starting work until the stand up.
* It ensures everyone is present and not being pulled into other meetings, leaving early etc.

However I dispute that.

Everyone may not be present.

* If you are based in a large city, various public transport delays often occur and people frequently do not make it in for the normal start time.
* Modern day work life is not like the old days of set factory shift hours. People do not need to clock in at the same time anymore. Flexible time allows people to start a 7,8,9,10 and change that every day.
* With a smaller world, companies and projects are frequently distributed across different time zones. So the work hours definitely might not match up. (Co-located teams or not discussion is for another time..)

So do you keep running the stand ups without everyone present? Or joining halfway through? Or frequently postpone it until later that day?

The time before the stand up will vary a lot.

* As people start at different times, some will make it in just before the stand up others will have been there an hour or two already.
* Members of the team might need to attend other stand ups before this stand up. E.g. Scrum-of-scrums stand ups,  if the Scrum Master/project owner is split across other teams, or worse team members are split across projects...

So do you just ignore the unfocused time before the stand up?

The task plans will not be clear for the entire day.

* Time before the stand up may be unfocused. If perceived as too small to bother trying to a worthy concentration ‘zone’ or pairing session. I.e. just waste.
* They might finish or become blocked/impeded during the day, and not pick up priority tasks
* Team members might be struggling until the next stand up

Is the unfocused wasted time costly?

So how do we improve this?

I have two suggestions. And they also have other benefits.

Have the stand up time just before lunch.

E.g at 12:45 if in the UK, or 11:15 if in Norway (my two countries of reference)

Everyone will most likely be in the office whether they started early, got stuck in traffic, had to drop off the kids at school, etc.

It definitely ensures the meeting does not overrun as people really do want to go to lunch.

It does have an issue if people go lunch at different times. Lunch times however are more easily adjusted by an hour more or less than the actual working hours. (If still different then you have another problem as I am a big believer in that most of the time team members should want to go to lunch together. Socialising at lunches and other events are great team spirit builders.)

The time before the stand up is now significant so people should not be unfocused before it. They should be able to resume their task, resume pairing, enter their zone and actually do some significant work.

With members in normal working mode they will be able to quickly explain what they have been doing since the last stand up, what the important impediments are etc. I often make it in just before morning stand ups, and rarely have a good memory of what I did the day before (which is a good thing, as it means I was able to switch off from work), but also means my status contribution is not optimal. (Whether stand up are status meeting or not is another discussion).

It also blocks people from scheduling stupid meetings that overlap lunch.

Introduce more stand ups

The daily stand up does not have to be daily. To keep focused on the flow of tasks your team can introduce multiple stand ups during the day.

However I would suggest to keep one as the official one, the one you advertise to externals, the one the project owner attends. The others should be kept as informal meet ups for the members to quickly sync up, to ensure WIP limits are maintained and focused on the most imporant tasks, if any impediment have occurred during the day or if someone is not sure what to pick up/assist with next. Much like the “proper” stand up.

You need to be careful not to introduce too much of a pressure cooker, allow some natural slack time, down time during the day otherwise your team will quickly burn up and become demotivated.

The informal stand ups does not have to be at the board, it can be at a table in the kitchen etc.

Dog food

In my current team we have our official stand up at 10am. Yes not lunch, but it was what the team wanted and you go with the team agreement. Our company does not offer flexi-time, so we all need to clock in 9.30am so with traffic/commute delays people are mostly present at 10am.

We have introduced an informal stand up between the developers and QA around 1400-ish.

And a couple of kitchen breaks during the day, however these naturally also include of general banter.

Follow up

Take a look at “Cocktail Party” of stand ups that Henrik Kniberg describes.

I dont care what you did yesterday, I trust you

A daily stand up is not a status update.

It is not a tool for micro management.

It is not a opportunity for line management, middle management,  project management and other stakeholders to scrutinise status of anything.

It certainly is not a stage to interrogate the work ethics of individuals.

A stand up is for the team,
synchronise on what will happen today,
making sure tasks at the top are moving along to done
and to assist others(swarm) to ensure WIP blockers are removed .

Stakeholders and others can watch standups, it gives them a quick overview of the priority of the team, any impediments etc but it is not for interfering or performance scrutiny.

The board should reflect status at other times. Otherwise the project owner/scrum master can inform people what the backlog priority is.

Any micro status of what happens between the backlog and done is not for external stakeholders.

TL;DR We do not care what you did yesterday. We trust you. You would not be in the team if we did not. Lets focus and help each other on today's task instead.