The Effectiveness of Agile and the Daily Standup Meeting
Many of us out there might not think about the kind of planning and development that go into the products we use, whether it’s for software or non-software. There are many different development styles used today by businesses, manufacturers, etc. Agile product development is one of those styles and one that’s being used more and more often. A crucial part of that process is incorporating a daily standup meeting.
When people think of agility, they think in terms of speed, adaptability, and quick-thinking. Agile product development, which came about in the 1970’s, incorporates those traits into its style. Unlike another major development style, Waterfall, Agile puts the focus on the teammates working on the product.
How a Standup Meeting Helps Agile Teams
Instead of each member working a specific job at a specific point in time during development, they all work together in its entirety, segment by segment, in short iterations, reviewing everything as they go. In the ever-progressing field of technology, it allows them to adapt to new technology, criticism, errors, and more. In short, it allows them to respond to changes during product development quickly and efficiently.
Most importantly, like mentioned before, the focus is on the team members and how they all work together. Instead of a chain of authority, they all work together, and it’s common for teams to break off into a smaller sub-team to tackle a portion of the project. Prioritization is also key for the product as a whole as well, as it gives an idea of what should be worked on first, scheduling, the scope of the development, and costs.
Naturally, Agile product development takes work in order to do it correctly. Development is done in iterations, that is, much smaller segments divided from the project as a whole. Depending on the project, each iteration can take as little as a week or as long as a month or two. It’s a smart decision to go over everything that everyone does along the way to see how progress is going, which is where the daily standup meeting comes into play.
What Happens During the Scrum Standup Meeting
The daily standup meeting, also often called a scrum, is pretty self-explanatory by its name. It’s a meeting the team has daily while…standing up. Wait, what? Yes, standing up. The goal of the daily meeting is to discuss progress on every individual’s part, but another goal is to do all of this in a timely manner. If they’re sitting down, the team will be more inclined to talk longer and waste more time since they’re all nice and comfy, hence they stand.
Anyone who is involved with the product development or needs to know how it’s progressing should be attending the daily standup meeting. In Pass the Baton style, each individual has their turn to talk about their current work, whether they discovered something useful that others can benefit from or they’re stuck with something someone else on the team has an answer for. In this fashion, everyone knows what everyone else is working on and how they’re doing on it, it generates very healthy communication between the team, and it inspires a sense of camaraderie.
Of course, the goal is to also have a productive daily standup meeting session. People are still people and can be prone to error. Two people might be having a spat after one took the last muffin, some might be shy and scared to talk, others might be prone to prattle on and drag things along with their storytelling, or others might want to help problem solve the second someone mentions their obstacle. That’s why each daily standup meeting should have a strict format, leaving any arguments, storytelling, or anything else for after the meeting. The time goal, after all, is to be short and sweet.
Standup meeting details
Daily standup agenda
To keep things simple and clean, these three questions are essential, though some teams are known to add a few more if required. The first question being: What did I get done since yesterday’s meeting? Question two: What do I plan on getting done today? Question three: What is something that’s giving me trouble, if anything?
Daily standup location and time
Another thing to think about is where and when each meeting will take place. The most important is it should be consistent, so same time and place every day. As to location, it’s best to not have it out of the way. For the sake of the team, but also passerby who might be interested to know how development is going should be allowed to drop by easily. If there will be people outside the team or management who will be dropping in, make sure they know how the daily standup meetings work so they don’t unintentionally hinder progress. A good rule of thumb is to meet where the team works; if the team has a visual board for the project, that’s a good spot. The best time of day to do the daily standup would be closer to the start of each day, but also at a time when everyone can attend, as a benefit of the standup is it gives the team awareness and focus for the day for that day’s work.
Other than the short meeting time and standing up, another way to help with attentiveness is to huddle up. Instead of being in a loose, wide circle, gather closer together, but be aware if any of your teammates feel discomfort. People feel closer when they are, well, closer, and the tightened in spaces ensures that everyone can speak at a comfortable voice level. People are more liable to pay attention to others right next to them and it helps with the feel of camaraderie I mentioned earlier.
Making sure that your stand up meetings aren’t a waste of time
There are a few things to take note on that can have a poor impact on a daily standup meeting. Late standup meetings, people late to the actual meeting, individuals who “have the baton” not talking to the entire team, rambling, problem solving, and a low sense of morale that may even be caused by the aforementioned problems. Many of these things can cause a meeting to drag on, causing others to stop caring and tune out of the meeting entirely. Remember to make the meeting for earlier in the day and to keep any socializing, storytelling, or problem solving for after the daily standup. If someone is talking to only the leader instead of the entire team, the sense of unity that’s supposed to be happening will take a hit. To help with this if it’s a problem, the leader should stop making eye contact. And if some people are late or just plain can’t remember what they did before or don’t know what they want to do today, it’s a problem with work ethic and preparedness and should be worked on outside the meeting with the leader.
All in all, what may work for some won’t work for everyone, and while these aren’t hard and fast rules, they generally do tend to work out for the best. Just remember to communicate well, keep things on track, and do your best to time it so that everyone is able to attend, but not too late in the day. Also, make it obvious when each meeting is over, so it doesn’t end on an anti-climactic note of people slowly wandering away. Meeting adjourned.
Daily standup meeting format
Most often, the standup meeting occurs in-person. That’s really the optimal way to hold a scrum meeting. If you are remote team, that can pose challenges.
With Allisian you can help your remote or distributed team perform a daily standup all through our app.
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