For most teams, sprinting is pretty simple. But what happens when you add several other teams into the mix? What happens when that means 30+ people at one meeting? That’s when you need to really think about how to optimize your cross-team standup.
Have you ever been in a scrum standup longer than thirty minutes? Let’s be honest, it’s usually painful. Painful, but necessary. Project’s can really suffer if the multiple teams that work on them can’t communicate effectively, so standups are necessary.
How do organizations facilitate cross-team scrums to avoid failures of tasks due to miscommunication? Let’s go over some options.
To start, the individual teams need to spend a bit of time together each day to communicate their status at what’s called a daily standup or scrum. They communicate what they did yesterday, what they will do today and if there is anything blocking their work.
This is the meeting which should happen prior to any cross-team meetings so that the team can be aligned prior to aligning all of the cross-functional teams. That team may be able to provide feedback to anything blocking their work. In many people’s opinion, it also facilitates camaraderie and trust among the team to know what’s going on with their team first.
We have another article that goes more in depth about scrums here The Daily Standup and Scrum Communication.
Scrum of Scrums
On option for cross team communication is the Scrum of Scrums, which is an Agile Alliance defined tactic. The Scrum of Scrums is a meeting in which a team member, often a lead, goes to represent the team at a meeting. At this meeting, the representatives from each team go over the standard scrum content, with the addition of coordination, challenges and resolutions for each team. More about the Scrum of Scrums can be found on the Agile Alliance website.
Another concept that isn’t defined explicitly by Agile, is a cross-team standup. It’s really a cross-functional standup in which every team member from multiple teams attends. This differs from a Scrum of Scrums, covered later, in which only a single representative from a team attends.
This standup occurs ideally after the individual teams meet. This one is also usually just called a scrum meeting and is basically the same thing as the individual team one, except it’s cross functional. Members go over the same statuses as before, with a little more focus on tasks and information that affects other teams.
The cross-functional standup meeting does a number of things:
- It gives visibility to what is occurring on other teams
- If there are any team contingent requests, it allows them to know when they are being worked on or done.
It should be noted that a cross-functional standup is not a substitute for Scrum of Scrums, it’s in addition to the scrum process. It should occur before the scrum of scrums, and is largely for the benefit to all the individual contributors on the team in addition to the team representative; who attends the Scrum of Scrums.
Communicating Standup Status with Allisian.
Allisian can help your team communicate standup status in a digital way. Users will enter their standup status once a day. Every night, an email is compiled into a single team report which includes each team member’s’ status.
It can especially help track status for multiple teams. User’s have a dashboard in which they can see team status history and archive. If you’re having trouble remembering, get a reminder each day if you forget to enter status updates.
Allisian works great for teams so large that a cross-functional standup becomes unfeasible.
How to Manage Scrum Duration
How do you keep standups a manageable duration requires a few rules. The below rules aren’t official “Agile”, but have worked on teams for me in the past.
- Everyone must keep their update short and sweet. One-minute max.
- Everyone must resist the urge to go in depth on topics that should be taken offline (out of the scrum meeting itself). Call team members out that are rambling on.
- Set a timer. There’s nothing like a loud alarm clock letting you know you went over.
- Try to keep any hand-of-five updates for individual team scrums and leave them out of Scrum of Scrums or cross-team standups.
Find a Standup That Works For You
There is no perfect way to facilitate a standup, you just have to find out what works for you and your team. The best way to find that out is to try.
Having open team discussions during a sprint retrospective can be the best way to find out what is or isn’t working for your standup style.
Good luck with your team’s standup.