The agile ritual series: Stand-up

The word stand-up in bubble letters with none of the letters paying attention.

Stand-up is a microcosm of your team. Show me your team’s stand-up and I can diagnose the effectiveness of your team. While there are plenty of articles on how a stand-up should be run, this post is about how you, as an individual, should represent yourself in stand-up.

Be on time

The Achilles heel of all agile teams is the stand-up that starts late. A meeting scheduled for 15 minutes should always start on time. Do not be the person who is perpetually a few minutes late. The team does notice and a healthy team will call you out. An unhealthy team will start to form opinions about you whether they share it publicly or not.

If there is someone else on the team who is late, you would be doing your team a service by giving them that feedback. There is a possibility that they do not know that people notice or care. You can give the feedback directly or talk to your team lead. I encourage giving feedback directly because it helps develop that healthy team dynamic. Use the SBI model (Situation, Behavior, Impact) to deliver this feedback in a private conversation:

  • “For the past couple weeks at stand-up…” (Situation)
  • “…you have arrived a few minutes late…” (Behavior)
  • “…this distracts me and others when you walk in. We slow down when we recap something you have missed.” (Impact)

Share with energy

For most teams, the daily meeting is to share information and keep up the energy on a project. When it is your turn to speak, share what is most important to the team. Be excited about delivering a large story and be specific about the thing that is blocking you and who could help. You are probably familiar with the three questions and this is a good framework for hitting key points, but keep in mind the idea of keeping up energy. Notice the phrasing in this blocker:

“I cannot get started because I am waiting on Matt to finish his story. I need something to work on.”

This statement is negative and passive. First, you are handing over control of your item and putting the weight on Matt’s shoulders. Second, you are asking the team to solve your problem instead of offering a solution.

Can you see the other problem with this statement? What will happen after you say it? In most teams, at least two things. Both will take up time and energy from the team. Right away, Matt will defend himself or explain why his item is still being worked on. Then, the team will start to try and figure out a solution to what you might work on next.

Here is a better statement:

“I am blocked by Matt’s story. Matt, after stand-up, I can help you get your story committed if you need it. Or I can pick up story XYZ.”

In this statement you convey the same blocker. However, this time you are positive and offer support and a solution. You have both shared your information and kept up the energy in the room.

Listen

Where many people fall short in stand-ups is listening. If you focus too much on what you are going to say, you are going to miss what others are sharing. Folks are sharing information for a purpose. Each of the typical three questions have possible follow-ups:

What have you completed?

If a teammate says, “I am still working on that 1 pointer that I thought was going to be easy. I think I am making progress, but…” You should call out that story and offer to help them get to done.

What do you plan to complete?

Is your teammate picking up the most important unblocked story from the backlog?

What is getting in your way?

This one is obvious. Offer help to unblock them if you have the ability.

Back to work

To wrap this post up, stand-ups are your team’s daily checkpoint on effectiveness. As a member of the team, you play an important role for the whole 15 minutes. To be fully effective, you need to:

  • be on time and hold others accountable
  • share with energy and offer solutions
  • listen to your teammate’s answers to the three questions

What did I miss that you find important to contribute to the daily stand-up?

 

In my next blog post, I will explore how you can fully engage in the refinement ritual. Stay tuned!

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