Barriers to Effective Stand-Ups

October 7th, 2014

Background

A few years ago I wrote a brief post about committed stand-ups in which I drew on the work of Jonathan Rasmusson and posed the following questions:

How effective is your daily stand-up meeting?

Is it energising the team or does it have a “going through the motions” feel to it?

Part of Jonathan’s answer was to, rather than simply let the team know what you plan to do today, tell them “how you are going to crush it today”.

The change of emphasis that Jonathan suggested can only work if individuals in the team genuinely feel like “crushing it” for the sake of the team. Unsurprisingly, barriers can exist which prevent effective stand-ups.

Barriers

Size

The reason for standing up whilst meeting is to keep the discussion short and to the point. If the meeting drags on for too long, participants are likely to become distracted. Obviously, the larger the team, the harder it is going to be to enable each member of the team to focus on what others are saying.

In my view, any more than about six people in a standup reduces its effectiveness.

Disparate Activities

Good stand-ups typically involve participants who are all working on the same project. If someone else in the stand-up starts talking about an activity that is unrelated to what the another in the group is doing, it is only natural that the listener will be inclined to tune out.

Leader

Stand-ups can become less effective if always led by a manager. In my experience, they work better if the role of convening the stand-up is shared throughout the team.

Technology

Whilst stand-ups can effectively include remote participants, of course they will break down if the technology fails. When this happens, those that are remote can be left laughing or thinking, “what was the point of that?”

Recommendations

In my experience, the most effective stand-ups have been in small teams focussed on the same project.

  • Keep the number of participants to a maximum of about six; certainly don’t let it get to double figures
  • Organise stand-ups around projects rather than amongst teams who are working on unrelated activities
  • Share the role of stand-up convenor throughout the team
  • For stand-ups involving remote participants, ensure that the computer hosting the video conferencing software is stable, and attach a good microphone and speakers so that everyone can hear well

I recall that during my early experiences of eXtreme Programming in about 2001, the Daily Stand-up practice was one of those that I found most effective. In my view, it can still be very valuable, provided barriers aren’t inadvertently put in its way.

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Committed Stand-Ups

May 13th, 2011

How effective is your daily stand-up meeting? Is it energising the team or does it have a “going through the motions” feel to it?

In his book, The Agile Samurai, Jonathan Rasmusson recommends that each person tell the rest of the team:

  • What you did to change the world yesterday
  • How you are going to crush it today
  • How you are going to blast though any obstacles unfortunate enough to be standing in your way

It’s a change of emphasis that I think is worth trying. As Jonathan says, it is a demonstration of commitment to the team and “dramatically increases the chances of you getting it done.”

However, if being so positive feels uncomfortable or forced, this probably indicates that there are other problems affecting the team’s morale that need to be dealt with.

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