The Daily Stand-Up is one of the wider known and frequently utilised techniques coming out of the Agile arsenal of practices. Why? Cynically, some might argue the Agile newbies think the Daily Stand-Up is Scrum or even Agile. 10 years ago, to the uninitiated, agile meant not writing requirements down and developing stuff in pairs, and now, to a new breed of uninitiated, it means standing up (or at least leaning with a coffee cup in your hand) and talking about stuff you did yesterday, stuff you think you’ll do today and a brief moan about anything that’s getting in your way.
If I take my cynical glasses off then the Daily Stand-Up is so widely adopted because it’s such a simple technique that engages the whole team, synchronizes their work and fosters collaboration on a daily basis ultimately helping to lead to total collaboration across the whole team. It’s a whole team technique that provides rapid feedback and a rapid, constant flow of feedback is essential in learning, which is essential for improvement, which is essential for delivering the right stuff when it’s needed……
It really is truly simple and effective. To do it, the whole team meet for a short (15 minute) stand up meeting where each individual takes a turn answering three simple questions:
- What did you achieve yesterday?
- What are you aiming to achieve today?
- What obstacles are getting in your way?
Let’s face it, if all you need to do is stand-up and answer 3 simple questions, what could go wrong and what harm could it do?
As an example, the conversation below has lots of smelly problems (each one labelled SMELL then described after the conversation). All these odours have some impact on the effectiveness of the Daily Stand-Up (and perhaps the effectiveness of the whole team), so, rather than leaving you retching at their stench, I suggest some deodorants that may help make your Daily Stand-Up smell of spring flora once again.
Read on (with a peg on your nose)…..
In a meeting room in an office not too far away, the members of s Scrum team in attendance sit around a desk, most of them slouched [SMELL1] as they wait silently for Sally the Project Manager turned ScrumMaster to load up her progress spreadsheet.
“I’ll start”, said Bob the Developer as Sally the ScrumMaster gives the signal the sheet has almost loaded. “I have another meeting to be at so need to drop out after twenty minutes.” [SMELL2].
“Yesterday I worked on the Checkout Widget story,” Bob the Developer continued, looking Sally the ScrumMaster firmly in the eye [SMELL3]. “Today I’m going to carry on with it. No impediments.” [SMELL4] [SMELL5]
“Will you finish it today?” asked Sally the ScrumMaster, visibly showing signs of frustration. “You’ve been working on this for two weeks now. What’s wrong with it?” [SMELL6]
Bob looks uncomfortable. “Well it’s not as simple as I first thought. I’ve almost finished but I have to develop the link to the payments engine and I’m struggling with it. We still don’t have the API documentation so I’m guessing my way through. I told you this last week.”
“Okay. I’ll email them later but I have monthly reports to get out first.” [SMELL7]
The team sit around the desk [SMELL8] and wait patiently as Sally’s fingers frantically tap away at the keyboard [SMELL9]. Once she has finished typing in Bob’s update she turns to the next developer.
“John,” she asks. “Have you finished your story?”
“Yes. I finished it last night. I was here until 10pm wrapping up the last of the tests,” he beamed. “What next boss?”
“Well done,” [SMELL10] Sally the ScrumMaster beamed back. “Move onto the Change Address feature.” [SMELL11].
Again all wait as Sally the ScrumMaster types up her notes.
“I’m working on the Store Finder story.”
“Is it done?”
“Not yet. I need to work out how to interface to Google maps. It’s a low priority feature but it’s a good one to get my teeth into.” [SMELL12]
“I’ve done something like this before….” Julian the Architect begins. “I was working on a Book Publishing system 2 years ago….blah, blah, blah.”
…several minutes later….[SMELL13]
“…it was hard but ultimately rewarding….”
…others join in the conversation as the problem is gradually solved…
“I think that will work,” said Jenny the Developer smiling.
“I have to go now,” said Bob the Developer. He gets up and leaves the meeting.
“Can I ask something?” Claire the Product Owner interrupts. “How long will it take to complete the Process Payment user story?” [SMELL14]
“I’m doing it next,” says Jim the Developer. “It’s big so will probably break it down over three Sprints. Should be done release after next.”
“Not good enough,” says Claire the Product Owner. “This absolutely has to be in the next release.”
“Make it happen Jim,” says Sally the ScrumMaster. “John you can help!”
“But it’s pretty complex and I’m not convinced we can chunk it up for two people to work on.” Jim the Developer looked worried.
“Just find a way Jim. John can you do it quicker?” [SMELL15]
“I can have a look and get back to you tomorrow.”
“Excellent,” Sally the ScrumMaster smiles.
Having typed in her notes once more, Sally the ScrumMaster looks for Craig the Developer.
“Where’s Craig?” she asks.
“Not in yet – he doesn’t get here until 10,” Jenny the Developer pipes up.
“Okay. I’ve also asked Alan to update some stats for my meeting this afternoon so he is excused.” [SMELL16]
“How is he getting on with his stuff?” asks John the Team Lead.
“Not sure. He can give us an update tomorrow.”
“Will Matt the Senior Developer be here tomorrow?” asks John the Team Lead.
“What do you think?” replies Sally the ScrumMaster. “He came to the first two but doesn’t see the benefit. I’ve excused him also. Plus he has the config and build stuff to maintain and it’s all in his head. He’s bogged down in support issues all the time. We just have to figure a way to share his knowledge.” [SMELL17] [SMELL18]
At that moment, Doug the DBA arrives. “Sorry I’m late again. I have to run some DB stats for Matt every day so can only make the tail end.” [SMELL19]
“Okay,” Sally the ScrumMaster responds. “How you getting on with the database scripts?”
“I’ve reviewed John and Jenny’s scripts and updated the stored procedures against our Oracle standards and made some performance improvements. I’ve emailed them to Matt to include in the build and get the test environments updated. Today I’m going to have a look at reviewing some of John’s earlier developments. Ones he did before I joined the team.” [SMELL20]
Sally the ScrumMaster finally turns to Dave the Developer. “How are you getting on with your story?”
Dave the Developer contemplates for a while…”Let me think. I’ve slept since I last worked on it and went through my emails this morning before the Stand-Up [SMELL21]. I think I’ve finished it. I’ll check and get back to you [SMELL22]. I think it’s probably worth running the tests again at least.”
“If you finish today then what’s your next assignment? I don’t have access to the backlog here and can’t remember what I assigned you,” explains Sally the ScrumMaster.
“Can’t remember myself. I’ll have a look at my emails when I get back.”
“Okay, that’s it,” Sally the ScrumMaster says. “I’m in a management meeting tomorrow and the day after that, then it’s Friday. Let’s can the daily meeting until Monday. How’s that suit?” [SMELL23]
“Yes please….” they all look really happy about this [SMELL24], including Sally the ScrumMaster, who congratulates herself on another well run Scrum.
SMELL1: Lack of energy
The Daily Stand-Up should feel like a high energy quick focused meeting. If there is an observable lack of energy in your team then you need to get to the bottom of this. It could be that your team don’t believe the Daily Stand-Ups are worth it, that they are paying lip service to a new management gimmick that is being forced down their throats (this years Scrum is last years RUP). If this is the case you need to understand why this is and address it. Look for other smells (absences, not addressing impediments, etc.) and talk to your team members off-line. Talk to all of them. Try reviewing what the team thinks of Daily Stand-Ups at Retrospectives but still make sure you talk to them off-line as the team may have a similar lack of energy during Retrospectives and the real issues may not come out.
This lack of energy could also be to do with timing. Doing them first thing or last thing may bring with it an inherent inertia or just plain tiredness. If this is the case consider doing just before lunch.
It could also be to do with the team size, duration and the choice of sitting rather than standing. Try keeping the meeting to 7 +/- 2 people, less than 15 minutes, take discussions off-line and make all standing to help maintain focus.
SMELL2: Leaving half way through
Although not as bad as not attending at all (half as bad maybe), leaving half way through means that others work is not synchronized with yours. This is not a status assessment where an individual feeds their progress back to a leader then switches off while the rest of the team have their go. This is about synchronizing team members work so attending for the duration is essential.
This is potentially linked to duration and timing. Make sure your meeting is limited to 15 minutes and is done at a time that doesn’t overlap with others commitments (first thing, last thing or around lunch are usually good candidates).
SMELL3: Feels like reporting to a leader
To repeat – THIS IS NOT A STATUS MEETING!
The meeting is not for a leader it is for the team. If this happens then it is a threat to productivity in that the feeling of management control directly impacts a teams commitment to their responsibilities and affects their desire to be a self-organising team.
If this is happening then consider rotating the facilitator. Try having today’s facilitator choose tomorrow’s facilitator. If you are the facilitator and feel like you are being reported back to then break eye contact, move position, let others speak in gaps of silence. Also try using a token to pass the baton of who speaks next rather than the facilitator prompting the next person to speak (but before doing this make sure your team don’t bring cups of coffee with them or they will either drop the baton or spill the coffee).
SMELL4: Objectives of the Stand-Up are not clear with the focus on getting done in 15 minutes and not on synchronizing team members work
If it’s not done in 15 minutes then it’s probably not working for one or more of many reasons: too many people, in-meeting problem solving, late arrivals, sit down meeting, observers interrupt and timing.
Make sure your Stand-Up is limited to 7 +/- 2, that discussions are taken off-line, that the time and place of the Stand-Up is fixed and communicated clearly (e.g. always in War Room 1 at 10:15), that the members (where physically appropriate) are standing, that attendees who are invited as observers (e.g. managers, users) understand that they are not allowed to interrupt and ALL cases are taken off-line. Make sure that the meeting is at a time that encourages completing in 15 minutes (e.g. 15 minutes before lunch).
However, watch out for the side effect of trying to get done in 15 minutes which is the essence of this smell. This occurs when the focus of the meeting is to answer the three questions in 15 minutes. This is NOT the objective of the Daily Stand-Up. The objective is to synchronize team members work.
Simply saying “Yesterday I worked on the Checkout Widget story. Today I’m ging to carry on with it. No impediments.” answers all three questions in a short time-frame but fails to meet the objective.
Instead if John had said:
“Yesterday I worked on the Checkout Widget story. I have designed the UI based on the sketches I came up with Claire the Product Owner and have developed the tests to cover the happy day scenarios. I could do with getting together with Claire to make sure the UI is good to go and also flesh out some more edge cases around the tests which we can build as FitNesse tables. Can we do this today Claire? I’m also struggling with the payments interface as I need the API documentation. Has anyone worked on this before or can you chase up the documentation Sally as I’m getting nowhere? I’ll also need some of Doug’s time to look at the database scripts. if I can understand the API, pair with Doug to finish off the database scripts and get the tests and UI work done with Claire I can get his story done today. Jim is this okay with you as I know your desperate for me to finish this so you can crack on with the Process Payment story. Only impediment I have is the API documentation not being available and this is a real blocker.”
This synchronizes what John is doing with Doug, Jim and Claire, gets the impediments out and actioned with Sally (especially if you have an impediments board) and gets commitment from John and the others to get the stories done.
SMELL5: Say one thing in Stand-Up another outside
Everyone’s different. Some people like to talk (and cause your 15 minute meeting to take an hour) and, on the flip side, some people are uncomfortable talking much at all and just want to get through it.
In addition, people get moody and can be garrulous one day and button-lipped the next.
You need to encourage each team member to open up and talk like John did above (well the new John anyway). You can’t force them, remember this, or this can be regarded as a form of bullying and is unacceptable.
If it’s down to the above then note this and try talking to the team member outside of the meeting. Don’t let their quietness foster as it could turn into mistrust and tension. Nip it in the bud and encourage them to open up by explaining why the Stand-Up is important and why they need to contribute.
However, this smell could be the symptom of something more sinister. In the example above, it is clear that John thinks the Stand-Up is pointless. He doesn’t understand that the objective is to synchronize team members work, he doesn’t believe his impediments are being addressed and he just wants out the meeting as soon as possible. See SMELL4: Objectives of the Stand-Up are not clear with the focus on getting done in 15 minutes and not on synchronizing team members work, SMELL7: Impediments not removed and SMELL2: Leaving half way through for more information on these smells.
Oh dear, our leader is doing everything she can to eradicate the team’s desire to be collaborative. Trust is the glue that binds a team, collaboration is formed on the basis of trust, trust is earned and not given away…and once lost, it is hard to retrieve and nothing eats away at trust more than aggressive confrontation (how many cliché’s there?).
This is a form of tyranny that will prevent a team becoming self-organising and will directly impact productivity.
A well run Scrum not only synchronizes team member efforts it is supportive not confrontational.
SMELL7: Impediments not removed
Being supportive also means making sure that you meet your end of the Agile bargain. If impediments are raised during the Stand-Up and they are not owned and addressed then the team will begin to believe that the Stand-Up provides little value and they will either stop attending, will come late, will lack energy and will not report impediments (a bit like Bob).
One of the main reasons for this is that impediments are not captured and are forgotten or ignored. To avoid this, or at least make it difficult to forget them, slap your impediments on an impediments board with your backlog. At the end of the session check that they are being addressed.
The prime responsibility of the ScrumMaster is to support the team. Key to this is ensuring that the teams impediments are removed to allow them to flourish and then surge.
SMELL8: Sitting down not standing up
It’s not called a Stand-Up meeting for nothing. We stand up to keep the meeting short. We stand up to feel in a huddle, to keep the conversation volume low as some people don’t feel comfortable having to raise their voice so that they are heard the other side of the room / table. By standing up we can get closer together and feel a level of trust that this closeness brings.
Couple of things to bear in mind though. Don’t get too close and invade personal space and if someone is suffering during the Stand-Up (e.g. they have a bad back) then consider sitting rather than isolating the individual. Just be aware that this will probably impact the time it takes to run the Stand-Up.
SMELL9: Meeting notes kept
This is a meeting for the team by the team. As already discussed. this is not a status meeting for the leader. This is a meeting to ensure the team are committed and are synchronizing their work. This is about communication and collaboration.
Having an individual take notes puts the power of recording the meeting in their hands. Avoid this as it will make team members feel uncomfortable as they do not know what the writer is writing.
If things come up that need to be recorded so they are not forgotten (e.g. problems or impediments) then put them on a card or post-it and make them immediately visible on an impediments board or a problem parking lot.
SMELL10: Avoid giving praise
Saying well done or thank you gives the impression that this is again a status update for the leader. If you do this for one member but not another then the other will be left wondering why. This may bring a smile to the face of one but has a more negative impact on the majority.
SMELL11: Leader assigns work
Having a leader assign work to team members is a sure-fire way to excuse the team from accepting responsibility which in turn damages the desire for the team to become self-organising. For a traditional Project Manager turned ScrumMaster, with years of detailed planning and task management, this can be a difficult habit to break…but break it they must.
While this happens, the team will look to their leader for guidance. When they finish tasks they will wait to be assigned new ones, they will not look to collaborate and help other team members out, and, if the leader is absent, then essential activities that should happen regardless of their presence (Sprint planning, Daily Stand-Ups, Demo’s, Retrospectives) will be skipped.
SMELL12: Backlog not in context – work on low priority features
If the Stand-Up takes place away from the information radiators then it is difficult to keep the team aligned to the priorities. The key information radiators that help with this are Sprint Burndown charts and the Agile White Board. The former shows the amount of work still to complete (in your chosen unit of measure) and the latter shows the backlog of items in the Sprint, whose working on what, what state the items are in and which items have associated impediments (usually identified with a red sticky dot on the task / story card).
This information can be kept in a tool, and in many circumstances this is essential (geographically dispersed team, sensitive / secure information, powerful crazy furniture police). However, if a tool is used during the Stand-Up rather than a whiteboard then it’s not easy to huddle round and one person is in control of what gets entered into it during the Stand-Up…not to mention you now smelling like SMELL9: Meeting notes kept.
With this information (which should be updated before the Daily Stand-Up starts) the team can ensure they are working on the correct items. Without it (and without it up-to-date), it is difficult the keep the backlog in focus during the Stand-Up and make sure that the members are working on relevant items.
SMELL13: Problem solving & story telling
It’s very easy to start solving problems or go off at tangents. If this happens then the meeting can run on and on and on with the majority of members becoming increasingly frustrated and contemplating the value of the Daily Stand-Up.
Ways to resolve this are to communicate that this is a 15 minute meeting and ensure that the meeting is a stand up. If problems start to get discussed then politely remind the culprits to take it off-line. This will help if you have a problem Parking Lot. If the conversation starts to head down this route then record the problem on a post-it, put it in the Parking Lot and request that the meeting moves on. At the end of the meeting, review the Parking Lot items and work out who needs to be involved in resolving the problems.
Another technique is to use a token that is passed from one team member to another. Only the possessor of the token is allowed to speak unless you are directly addressed by the token possessor. When the token holder is finished, the token holder then chooses who to pass it onto next.
SMELL14: Observers talking (how very dare they!)
If you are going to get through this in 15 minutes it will need to be focused. Having observers (managers, stakeholders) interrupt the meeting with questions, observations, etc. disturbs the flow of conversation.
These questions may provide the observer with information they feel is essential and the observations may enlighten the team to a problem or requirement they hadn’t anticipated. It may also be argued that not allowing observers to talk is a guideline and such interruptions should be welcomed in that they add this value. Mike Cohn states in Towards a Catalogue of Scrum Smells:
Allowing chickens to talk can be a slippery slope. If a chicken is allowed to make a comment one time (when the comment is useful), how do we later prevent a chicken from commenting (when the comment may not be useful).
If, at this point you think all this discussion on talking chickens is a bit bizarre then let me point you to the explanatory joke (in the loosest sense of the word):
A chicken and a pig are together when the chicken says, “Let’s start a restaurant!”
The pig thinks it over and says, “What would we call this restaurant?”
The chicken says, “How about Ham n’ Eggs?”
The pig says, “No thanks, I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”
[Shwaber and Beedle, 2001]
In a Daily Stand-Up, only pigs are allowed to talk (developers, testers). Chickens are the observers (management, customer, other stakeholders).
If this is allowed once, then where does it stop? Pretty soon, the 15 minute rule is broken, the interference appears as questions are asked by management, problems are solved by stakeholders and the whole focus on the 3 questions gets diluted and the meeting turns into a traditional progress meeting and, eventually, the team members stop attending and a nominated team lead is sent to discuss all things progressee with management and stakeholders.
This rule of only pigs talking needs to be honoured and the facilitator must direct observer interference to the Parking Lot (not literally as in FIGHT! I refer to a solution to SMELL13), so the topic can be dealt with after the meeting by affected parties. This helps prevent the scenario where the chicken in question may feel that their input is being ignored and adversarial relationships may begin to develop. If items are put in the Parking Lot and resolved off-line then the chicken feels they have a medium for communication but recognises that the Daily Stand-Up isn’t it.
SMELL15: Leader overrides estimates
The Product Owner makes all decisions on the backlog but the team make all decisions on estimates and how the work is done.
The Product Owner says what, the team say how and how long.
If the Product Owner or ScrumMaster start to override the teams estimates then this will cause team members to stop estimating or will cause team members to pad their estimates. The resulting effect being that estimates no longer give any gauge to how long we think the work is going to take so are thus irrelevant. Not good is it!
The more important side effect of this though is the damage it does to the team morale and the teams desire to self-organise. If the team feel they are being overridden they will always look to the overrider for direction.
To tackle this, avoid questioning estimates in the Daily Stand-Up and perform the Daily Stand-Up around the backlog and burndown chart. Make sure your team update the backlog and burndown chart before the Stand-Up. This will help visualise progress and understand the impact of estimates that are changing or where new stories or tasks are being identified. If progress is wildly behind schedule or an individual is not performing then monitor this and address it outside of the Daily Stand-Up. Chances are it will resolve itself as the self-organising team work together to meet their commitments. If they don’t then be cautious of interference while the team is going through the transition to a self-organising team – you will only make it take longer.
The meeting should never hang individuals / teams out to dry for not performing. When this starts to happen then the team will feel that management are using their meeting as an excuse to micro-manage.
In addition, smaller iterations provide more feedback loops for revisiting estimates and can therefore help improve them based on performance to date.
When estimating, try using Planning Poker to estimate by consensus and practice commitment based planning where the team will estimate tasks and commit to delivering against those estimates. Back this up with Velocity based planning so the team, manager and stakeholders have a longer term view of what / how much can be delivered over future iterations and releases based on past performance.
Absence is unavoidable so isn’t necessarily a smell that something is wrong. Team members will have days off sick or occasionally will have other commitments that are essential and will just have to impact their attendance at the Daily Stand-Up. However, these should be exceptional.
Absence causes a stench when absence is continual (see SMELL17: Continued absence) or intentional and avoidable and the absentee’s update is unavailable. This suggests that the absentee is beginning to lose sense of the value of the Stand-Up, that their own work schedule is more important than the teams (and thus impacts the team’s ability and desire to be self-organising) or that they are behind schedule or having quality problems and are uncomfortable sharing this in the public eye of the Stand-Up.
If you really just can’t make it then, if not constrained by being wrapped up in bed with man-flu like symptoms, an update should be sent to the facilitator with apologies or, preferably, should be given by a team-mate who has the background and context of the individual’s work (your other half if practising pair programming or possibly someone impacted by your work).
SMELL17: Continued absence
Continued absence paralyses the Stand-Up. Forgetting the reasons why someone is continually absent, the impact this has on those that do attend is:
- Recognition that it’s okay not to turn up
- Gradual loss of belief in the value of the Stand-Up
- Severely impacts teams ability and desire to be self-organising
- Lack of awareness of the individuals work and the impact this work has on them
Why would an individual continually fail to attend?
The reason could be linked to perceived value of the approach. Are other smells evident and the individual is voting with their feet?
The reason could be linked to protection. Are they a coding diva and think they are greater than the team? Why is this? Are they afraid of losing some power or empire they have established in the team?
The reason could simply be down to logistics. Is the Stand-Up timing and location all wrong for this person?
If the team member is protecting their role and responsibilities then go directly to SMELL18: Hero’s – you have one on the team.
Alternatively, if, when discussing the lack of attendance with them, they enlighten you as to their perceived value of the Stand-Up then you should discuss the reasons with them and understand if there are additional smells. This is often down to SMELL3: Feels like reporting to a leader and the team member see’s the Stand-Up as the ultimate in micro-management. If this is the case, then it’s down to you or your leader to address this behaviour.
If the problem is logistical then you may have fallen foul of the “Stand-Up is first thing in the morning at 9:15” problem, without giving consideration to individual’s personnel preferences and working patterns.
Remember the motto:
For the team, by the team
Let the team decide on their own time and location. Just make sure its consistent: Same place, same time. This approach will give the team a sense of ownership and goes a long way towards encouraging collaboration. Having the Stand-Up in the same place, same time every day means that interested parties will also know where and when to go (to observe only – obviously!)
So you have identified an individual who regularly misses the Stand-Ups and recognise that this individual is Mr Product-X.
If the team member is protecting their role and responsibilities then you will need to work with them to understand this and for them to understand the importance of a self-organising team and how their protective, possibly elitist behaviour, is a direct threat to the team’s ability to collaborate.
The hero is likely to be a well-respected, highly technical individual who regards you as an ache in the rear and that they are tolerating you because this is just another management fad that will pass. Then they can get back to their proper job.
To get over this you will need to win them round and this will take time. While this is happening be watchful of how they are impacting the teams ability to self-organise and collaborate. Make sure you are eradicating impediments and no other smells are observant. This is likely to be evident in other collaborative practices (planning, retrospectives, peer reviews) not just the Stand-Up so be mindful of keeping an eye (or should I say nose) on them also.
One approach to bringing the hero into the team is to ask them to experiment with Stand-Ups for a period (i.e. an Iteration) where they can observe and take part in the teams gradual improvements in collaboration, thus becoming involved and committed to it rather than cautious of it. Ask them to help resolve some of the impediments and identify and eradicate process smells so they have a sense of ownership of the Stand-Up.
If all else fails, to put it bluntly, show ’em the door. There is no place in a team for someone who doesn’t want to be in a team.
SMELL19: Your late!
The Stand-Up should wait for no-one and should not be summarised for someone who is late. Doing this suggests that it is somehow okay not to be there on time (thus de-valuing the Stand-Up and impacting the teams ability to self-organise). Summarising will also impact your desire to be done in 15 minutes if you have to repeat everything.
Lateness could also be a symptom of not having an agreeable time and location and the late individual may just be logistically challenged. As discussed in SMELL17: Continued absence, let the team decide on their own time and location and make sure its consistent.
SMELL20: No impediments
As a consequence of SMELL7: Impediments not removed, the team will eventually lose confidence in the ScrumMaster’s capacity or desire or capability in helping them get over project hurdles. Once they start to think this then they will stop raising them.
Another reason this happens is that the team suffer from either SMELL1: Lack of energy, SMELL14: Observers talking or SMELL4: Objectives of the Stand-Up are not clear with the focus on getting done in 15 minutes and not on synchronizing team members work.
As stated in SMELL7: Impediments not removed, use an impediments board to capture and track the impediments when they are raised. This will help all individuals feel a sense that impediments are worth raising because they are being captured and dealt with. As a ScrumMaster – this is your part of the agile bargain – deal with them!
SMELL21: Stand-Up starts the day
How can this be a problem? They are meant to start the day aren’t they?
The Daily Stand-Up can be in the morning as this helps the team focus on what they need to achieve for the rest of the day, but when its seen as starting the day this can have a nasty side effect.
In today’s flexible workplace, individuals vary their start times and working patterns. As such, to achieve consensus on when to have your Daily Stand-Up, you will arrive at a time that is equal to about 15 minutes after the last person arrives into work.
For example, let’s say one person arrives in at 8am, two more come in at 9am, another two come in at 9:15am and the final member arrives at 9:30. They agree to have the Daily Stand-Up at 9:45am.
All fine and dandy.
However, chances are that those who arrive at 9am, or after (i.e. the majority of the team) will see the Daily Stand-Up as starting the day rather than just being an activity that happens in the morning. When this is the case they are more likely to spend their time leading up to the Daily Stand-Up looking at emails and discussing last nights TV or football results around the coffee machine. (Not me though cos as I write this my team Villa were just beaten by their local rival Birmingham City 2-1 ;-( and don’t get me started on England’s failed World Cup bid).
If this is the case, then consider having the Daily Stand-Up at the end of the day (additional plusses being impediments and progress are fresh in your mind, there will be a desire to get done in 15 minutes (to get home) but lose the value of focusing the team for the rest of the day) or just before lunch (which partially loses the focus of the rest of the day but increases the team’s desire to get done in 15 minutes (to get food…mmmmmmmm)).
SMELL22: Not prepared
You need to prepare for the Stand-Up otherwise you will end up like Dave and your communication is ineffective. To provide feedback that is more collaborative (in a way that we changed John’s feedback in SMELL4: Objectives of the Stand-Up are not clear with the focus on getting done in 15 minutes and not on synchronizing team members work), you will need to consider not just what you did, etc….but think around the tasks and the impact they have on other team members and where you need to garner support, help and feedback to collaborate on completing your self-assigned piece of work. As Stacia Viscardi puts it in Daily Standup Withdrawal in Scrum Teams your feedback should be meaningful, insightful and pro-active.
SMELL23: Skipped Stand-Ups
The Stand-Up should happen even if the ScrumMaster isn’t present. The meeting is for the team by the team and, as already stated, it is NOT a status update for the ScrumMaster (see SMELL3: Feels like reporting to a leader).
To prevent this try nominating the next days facilitator as described in SMELL3: Feels like reporting to a leader. This will help ensure the Daily Stand-Up is truly daily, even if the ScrumMaster is unavoidably absent.
Oh, go on then, you can have weekends off.
SMELL24: The dreaded ritual
To complete this assemble of unpleasant odours, we have the catch-all. If your team begin to see the Stand-Up as a dreaded ritual then there is something definitely wrong and it is probably a symptom of SMELL3: Feels like reporting to a leader and SMELL6: Confrontational.
The team hate them and they feel the Stand-Up is ineffective.
In some cases, some team members just don’t like talking in the public environment of the Stand-Up (see SMELL5: Say one thing in Stand-Up another outside).
Whatever is making the team ache inside at the thought of a Stand-Up you will need to get to the bottom of it. Ask the team to experiment with Stand-Ups to understand why they may not be working for you – look for the smells described above and try some of the suggested solutions to deal with them.
At its best the Stand-Up is an effective and dynamic means of feedback, communication, self-organisation and co-ordination. Your Stand-Ups will suffer from some of the smells above which will impact the effectiveness of the Stand-Up. If you are nauseated by their stench then experiment with some of the suggested deodorants.
My advice is to be more careful about falling into the trap of the Stand-Up turning into a status update than any other. This really does suggest micro-management and when it goes wrong, even though you maybe thinking your Daily Stand-Up is effective because as a manager you are forcing it to be focused, it affects the team and can cause a number of de-motivational issues that can significantly impact your teams morale.
If the Daily Stand-Up suffers from SMELL3: Feels like reporting to a leader, SMELL5: Say one thing in Stand-Up another outside, SMELL6: Confrontational, SMELL9: Meeting notes kept, SMELL15: Leader overrides estimates and SMELL24: The Dreaded ritual then this really is micro-management of the very worst kind. In this situation, we are far removed from the collaborative communicative environment we are trying to foster to one that cultivates confrontation where bullying, repression and autocracy are the norm. When our Daily Stand-Up’s are like this then they become management gimmicks that veil micro-management, ego’s and hidden agenda’s and are the equivalent of electric shock therapy.