Friday, February 8, 2013

Stand to Deliver

In the past two years, we have been trying to find a way on how to employ stand up meetings properly but have had very disastrous results. I've always been trying to look at the factors why we can never keep it up, or get much needed and valuable information about the state of the project.

The premise of the daily stand-up is simple. Your team meets every day for a quick status update. This usually happens at the same place and the same time. The people that need to attend should cover all parts of the business that comprise your team and that would be developers, product owners, project managers, testers and all the other "ers" that provide guidance, inputs or decisions with regards to the project that is being worked on.

These meetings usually talk about 3 things. What you worked on yesterday, What you are planning to work on today, and blockers or concerns that can possibly slow you or the team down.

Simple enough?

No.

What seems to be a meeting that is supposed to help the team start their day properly, and having the ability to bring back focus to where it should be or get a bigger picture with where the team is through communication, bad things happen instead.

When I say bad, I mean the complete opposite of what the daily stand up goals will happen. The day starts badly because not everyone shows up, or the phones don't work and we can't hear the other members or the ones dialing in can't hear anything or anyone for that matter. To make things worse after the end of the meeting there are hardly answers to the blockers at hand. You also get a lot of *shrugs* (take that David Pogue haters). The information presented in the meeting in turn gets lost since nobody takes notes, no one updates the tickets on what follow up needs to be done and no one calls out anyone on really bland requirements on any given ticket.

Enough of that.

Yesterday, I attended my first daily stand up with the group that I will be working with and they showed me what stand ups were all about. Well first, everyone of consequence showed up or dialed in at the right time. Everyone communicated according to the rule of three that you are supposed to talk about, and everyone seem to have the ball when it comes to their tickets. They used this time to raise issues but know that this was not the time for problem solving.

There is one X-Factor that I think was one of the reasons why I think that stand-up was such a success. The Project Manager was very masterful at what was needed to be done. Whether it's asking the right questions to untangle what seemed to be a confusing blocker, or updating tickets on the fly with what needs to be followed up or updated, calling out bland requirements and assigning them to the proper people before work can continue. Providing guidance as to who can provide help if people are stuck. Facilitated instead of just letting everyone loose. There was a flow to it, something that I haven't seen in a while.

It did seem that the entire company has an understanding of this process because the moment our meeting was up, the next guys just went in, stared people down and forced us to end our meeting.

Bottom line, these stand up meetings are supposed to be about information, what to do with that information and what the team can do to deal with the information that is presented and how that affects the bigger picture.

After that stand up meeting, I got the message loud and clear, this team knows what the main thing is and they intend to keep the main thing, the main thing.
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