Standup meetings are an integral part of Agile projects. They provide an opportunity for open and regular communication between all team members. But many times they turn out to be overheads. How can you make the standup meetings efficient?
Setup Ground Rules
Ground rules are important for any meeting – but “very” important for standup meetings. Without rules, this meeting can drag itself into a debate while wasting the precious time of all team members.
Here are some ground rules that are useful:
- Fix the Maximum Duration of Standup Meeting – No negotiations. No exceptions. A good maximum value is 15 minutes. In a team of 6 members, each member gets approximately 2 minutes to give their update
- Appoint a Time Keeper – Usually the Manager or Scrum Master (in Scrum) can play this role. The responsibility of this person is to give a “time up” message to the team member when their allotted time is over
- Don’t deviate from the Standup Format – A good format can be, “What was done the previous day? What is planned for today? What are the blockers or concerns?”. If someone deviates from this, the time keeper can pitch in to bring the flow back
- Same Time, Same Place – By making it a daily habit, team members no longer see this meeting as an overhead
- Stand, physically – Believe me. It helps to keep the focus and finish the meeting on time
Ask explicitly for Issues and Obstacles
Many times the team members don’t open up in case of hidden issues or obstacles. It requires some probing from the Scrum Master to uncover these issues.
Here are some probing questions to bring out the issues.
Do you really think this will work?
Are you sure there are no issues with this approach?
If the probing reveals a much bigger problem, take it out of the standup meeting and discuss with the relevant team members.
Review the Risks Periodically
Standup meeting is an opportunity to review the risks that were identified during the Iteration Planning meeting. The Manager or Scrum Master should constantly review the list of risks – with an objective to cleanup the invalid ones and add new risks that are identified.
It is recommended to do this once a week, but the frequency can be increased in dynamic environments.
Use Physical Boards
Though most agile software like Jira or Rally come with agile boards where the progress can be tracked – a physical board fosters easy collaboration and information sharing. These software also allow you to print the stories and tasks in post-it sized notes, which can be pinned to the board.
Follow this rule of thumb – to anyone passing by the board, the high level status of the project should be clear in a few minutes
Introduce some Fun
In one of my agile teams, we pass an object around and the person with the object gives his/her updates. Usually it is a ball, but it can be anything. This is a slightly fun way to bring energy into an otherwise monotonous round-robin fashion!
These are some ways to make daily standup meetings more useful and interesting. Can you think of some other ways? Do share it in the comments