Sunday, March 18, 2012

Speak at the 33rd Degree

I will be speaking in Poland this month at the 33rd. It looks like a great conference line up and Krakow is wonderful.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Agile: getting the standup right!

The standup meeting as part of an agile discipline at first seems like an easy and obvious activity. Yet I keep coming across clients and organizations that seem to struggle with getting it right. It appears that as long as everyone is standing... and we do that everyday... that we can check "standup" off the list. Just standing up doesn't make it a stand up! (Please repeat that... as often as it takes to get it.) On top of that... many organizations seem to think that the stand up is for the scrum master or management to get status. That's not it either! Here are some warning signs:
  • Standups take 30 mins or longer
  • People regularly miss the meeting
  • You are always waiting 10 minutes for that one person
  • The PM or Scrum Master is asking clarifying questions
The standup meeting is NOT:
  • Primarily for status (I know that might seem confusing)
  • About the position you are in during the meeting
  • About the Scrum Master
Getting the standup right is crucial for a healthy agile team. It is for and about the team. Here is the purpose of the standard up:
  • Synergy - It is a point for developers to synchronize their efforts and realize when there is about to be some code thrash. It is a point to say, "hey joe, I'm about to do task x which is closely related to your task y, lets get together after the standup".
  • Transparency - Everyone knows what is being done, which provides a double check that each person is doing the highest priority tasks and is there anything holding us up.
  • Accountability - This the best place to realize that a team mate is struggling. When you see that Joe has had a 4 hour task for 2 days its time to say "Joe... lets pair on that... lets see if we can knock that out.
These purposes come out of the standard questions most agile developers are aware of: "What did I do?", "What am I going to do?" and "is there anything holding me up?". I know this sounds like status... it's not.

Advice for Scrum Masters
  • First realize you are not the reason for the standup
  • Standups are 10-15 mins.. that's it.
  • Do not ask for follow up during the stand up... if something needs to be followed up, follow the person of interests back to their desk and ask them without tying up everyone else's time.
  • If it becomes clear that the team needs to meet.. for a design discussion or a big status meeting or... doesn't matter. It is super important to delineate that as a separate meeting. "Hey I would like to discuss x with everyone after the standup. Please stick around.". Then announce "ok, that is the end of the standup, lets discuss x"
  • The best thing you (Scrum Master) can do during the standup is to facilitate. Do not allow someone to dominate 5 mins of the 10 min standup or elaborate extensively. The challenge is not to be a jerk about it... If it is a challenge, then it is something that needs to be discussed in a retro meeting, asking for the teams opinion and possible solutions.
A big part of getting agile right is to understand why we do certain things! It isn't about standing up. It is about keeping it short and to the point. It is about getting the benefits listed above out of it.

Good Luck