“Managing” Software Development – The Daily Standup

If you have been around software development at all, you have probably attended a “standup” meeting.  So why, is this meeting so important?  This meeting provides at least one opportunity for teammates to communicate with each other on a daily basis.  I recommend three components for the meeting to be effective:

  • The meeting should be recurring daily.
  • Everyone who is physically able should stand for the entire meeting.
  • The purpose of the meeting is to communicate a micros status of each teammate’s progress.
  • The meeting should be brief, and limited to 15 minutes or less.
  • One member of the team should facilitate the meeting.
  • Anyone can attend the daily stand up, but only the team members may speak during the actual meeting.
  • Discussion during the meeting is limited to each teammate answering the following questions:
    • What did I do yesterday?
    • What did am I going to do today?
    • What are the things(roadblocks) that stop me from getting my tasks completed?
  • Any detailed conversations should be wait until after the meeting is over.

Simple and to the point, daily stand ups in this format create a number of positive outcomes.  Each teammate providing the answer to the three questions daily provides each member of the team an opportunity to let everyone else know they completed a task.  Getting stuff done will become infectious to a team.  Those teammates that are struggling will report the same thing several days in row, which create a small coaching opportunity.  More times than not, the team itself jump in and attempt to help teammate.  These coaching opportunities serve as a timely feedback loop to respective teammate.  Without the daily stand up, those feedback loops often manifest themselves in the yearly performance review, with decaying performance and coaching feedback.   Unfortunately, some teammates are not suited for their role or the company, won’t like the exposure of reporting a micro status, and will self-select themselves out of the team or the company.

Meeting on a daily basis will help ensure the updates are small in nature.  Everyone having to stand will also help keep the meeting short, as most people don’t like standing in the same spot for more than 15 minutes.

There are all kinds of reasons on why roadblocks are encountered.  The roadblocks often start out small, but have a tendency to grow into huge mountains over time.  There also many types of roadblocks which can become visible.  Some roadblocks are easily removed by the team, while other roadblocks require help to get removed by someone outside the team.  This is an opportunity for the servant leader/facilitator to help.  By learning about roadblocks early, the roadblock can often be addressed before it becomes larger and more complicated.  If the roadblock is bigger or more complicated than the team can handle, the servant leader has the responsibility to find an acceptable resolution or mitigation.  The effects of the roadblock can be communicated quickly so appropriate expectations can be set.

The daily stand ups often become a ritual, and are utilized by those outside the team.  In addition to listening to the daily micro status, non-team members who have questions quickly learn that, right after the daily stand up, they can ask questions and provide feedback to the team.  In person verbal feedback is far more effective than an email.

One word of caution:  stand up meetings have to stick to this format or human nature will turn this into an much longer time commitment with the benefits and value decaying over time.

Daily stand up meetings are effective regardless of the type of team you are on.  I have seen them used in lots of different types of teams, including customer service, marketing, sales, management, and operational teams.  If you are “managing” a team, start with the daily stand up.  Your teammates will grumble, groan, show up late, and generally try to avoid the meeting.  After a few weeks, your teammates will start to see the results.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Note:  This post was also posted at belithe.com.

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