Juliet Lara

@juliet.lara

You are doing Stand-ups wrong!

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

It’s another Monday morning in busy Sydney CBD offices. Once again my group is gathering against a wall and talking to it. This morning we are standing up.

So what is a standup? It’s a pulse check with your team to make sure that they are set to achieve their goals for the day. It’s straightforward enough for just about any groups to apply. Agile, even provides a formula for running standups. The method is a little something like this — what did you accomplish yesterday, what are your goals for today, what blockers do you have on your path to achieving those goals.

Easy right?

But why is it such a drag to go to Standups every day? And why does it feels like groundhog day every day when we stand up against that stupid wall?

What are you doing wrong?

Standup Principles

Agile is full of principles. Including that famous manifesto. With good intentions aside, when it comes to principles I follow my childhood hero’s advice.

Obey the principles without being bound by them — Bruce Lee.

Pulse Check

Like an ER unit, projects and process tend to ride that fine line between living and dying. Are you going to make it or not?

The essence of stand-ups is just that. Will you be able to do what you need to do today or not? If yes — awesome! You are likely not to flat-line today. If not, then let’s get the resources and answers you need to survive today.

So this means we don’t want to hear your laundry list for today. We only want to know if you’re on track or stuck.

Goals

Like an army unit marching for battle, it helps if you know where you are going. When I say ‘you’ I mean you and your team members (your platoon). 
You are meant to know exactly where everyone is up to in your team, and if what they are up to in not aligned to the ‘goals’ or the direction you want to go, then they are doing the incorrect work.

For example, if the goal this week is to finish the submission process for an app project. With the working functionalities from triggering it at the interface and receiving to process the request at the back-end. Then it means that we can expect our team to work on stories and tasks that will help to implement this goal. No doubt about it. And our stand-up updates should all relate to this purpose.

So why the hell are we so afraid to call out people in our stand-ups who are lost and doing work that they are not meant to be doing?You can try to do this respectfully and with integrity. Ask them what their work means for the current goals. Ask the team leader or Scrum Master what would that mean for the team goals if a few people are not chipping away with work that does not align with the goals. Dare to ask. Because perhaps just one question could awaken and change some of the bad decisions your team is making.

With no clear goals, you are trying to make an efficient machine, and yet the machine doesn’t know what it’s making.

Think about that.

Transparency

As part of a team, you have the right to ask and know what everyone is up to with their work. Hopefully, what they are up to is aligned with your group’s short-term goals.

Having said that transparency in stand-ups does not mean micromanagement. Micromanagement happens when there is no trust within a team, or you’re dealing with control freaks. You need to find the balance between the two.

Trust is always earned and never freely given by default. So aim to show that you are worth the trust, do the things you said you would do. Most of the time this is all the evidence the control freak assholes need to back off.

As trust spreads among your team members, your group learns to deliver what they said they would which then earns the trust of people outside the team.

I get some questions from people about the practicalities of a stand-up. Here are some of them:

Should we do stand-ups every day?

There is no hard and fast rule about this here’s some area to think about:
* If your team is warming up to work, then perhaps every second day is fine. 
* If your team is reaching the critical tail-end of a project then maybe a daily standup is much needed. 
* If not much movement happens every day, then perhaps don’t do it every day. 
* If you all sit near each other and frequently update each other, then an official standup every day is not needed as much.

Overall, it’s an agreement made by the team to each other. Stand-ups is a tool to enhance your group’s communication and a chore.

Roughly how long should everyone talk?

It should be a short and sharp meeting, but it shouldn’t be too quick that what you say becomes pointless.

I use a 3-minute rule to allow team members to speak roughly around 3 minutes. Now that means you will only raise your key points and then hopefully the team can break up afterwards and discuss further if needed. Use the timing rule only as a guideline and not a hard and fast rule.

As a guiding principle, respect everyone’s time in the standup.

How do you control people from talking too much?

If they do talk way too much that the allocated time, there are some subtle and fun ways to let them know they have gone over the time, bring in a timer, squeaky toys, or mini football to pass around once their time is up.

Should everyone be doing a standup?

Could your team benefit from quick get together to make sure you are all in sync with your goals and tasks? Then hell yes!

Hey! Thanks for reading! I’m Juliet Lara, I write about life, learning, tech, startups, and communication.

If you enjoyed reading this entry then please share the love by clicking those clapping hands. They give me a boost to keep going :)

You can get in touch with via twitter @julietlspeaks

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