By Rebecca Bennett
“Stand-Ups” need to stand down. At least for a moment. Teams can often get carried away by taking a methodology, in this case, agile, to its literal meaning and applying it like a cookie cutter into their organization. Methodologies are developed based on numerous iterations until methodology architects find a one-size-fits-most formula they can package up and promote. However, if we stay true to how the methodology was originally originated, that means that we should continue to iterate and improve it as the world changes, instead of just seeking to absorb its face value. By taking a step back and “standing down” my team’s Stand-Up meeting, I was able to re-assess it, and then build on the traditional Agile Methodology to make it a more effective tool for my team. As a result, I turned around my team’s perception of the concept and improved their performance.
What is a Stand-Up?
The daily stand-up meeting (also known as a “daily scrum”, a “daily huddle”, “morning roll-call”, etc.) is when the whole team mets every day for a quick status update. We stand up to keep the meeting short.
– Stand-up meetings are reliably shorter and proven more effective than sit-down meetings.
– Helps individuals better understand and even clarify assignments that they are working on if they have to speak to it.
– The short duration forces you to focus in what’s important and what brings value. If it doesn’t get talked about then it’s not as important.
– Prevents tasks from falling through the cracks by giving everyone an opportunity to come forward with information and not relying on them to surface it of their own initiative.
– Team cohesion occurs as a result of sharing information regularly.
– Builds confidence in public speaking about the work that you do.
The traditional StandUp AGENDA:
Duration: 15 minute
Every member of the team stands up and “answers” 5 questions:
1) What did I do yesterday
2) What am I doing today?
3) What blockers do I have?
As a project manager, I was noticing that our team’s “StandUps” were a meeting that people were beginning to dread and even ducking out of. They often times felt that they were a waste of time and weren’t providing value. I agreed with them too. Stand-Ups can be bland. In order to try to make better use of this time and make the meeting more effective, I decided to take a new approach and redesign it in 3 ways.
1) Often times people would get off topic and share things that they learned in practice from a project they were working on or a challenge they encountered and what they did to address it. I noticed that people tended to perk up and listen at these moments. Even though these non-high-level digressions would extend our standup meeting time, I opted to not be so disciplined on maintaining the strict format of status update and let my team mates share their insights. If these little digressions were providing value, I was not going to stop it in its tracks for bureaucracy. This is why entertained the idea to add the “What did I learn?” question, inviting team members to incorporate their day-to-day takeaways in their status updates, allowing the team to learn from them as well as make them more tangible for the individual by saying them out loud, publicly.
2) I also noticed in every work place that I have worked in that there has notoriously been a lack of appreciation of each other and our work. Given that this is one of the top motivating factors for employees, the fact that it wasn’t getting addressed was astounding in today’s mature organizations. I decided to incorporate an appreciation practice I termed the “Shout Out.” This basically gives everyone the opportunity to briefly acknowledge and appreciate individual team member contributions and notable performance. The result? The team loved this! Doing this at the beginning of our day really made everyone’s day to hear nice things being said about them, which I believe has boosted our productivity. My team now employs these throughout the day anytime they see something good from another team member they will give a “Shout Out” in the moment. Just to warn you, I have had smart-asses on my team who went so far as to give a “Shout Down” to someone from another team, which I don’t encourage, but admit the team bonded over.
3) Lastly, in order to make the Stand-Up less bland, I decided to incorporate a Question/Word/Riddle of the Day. I did this because our team rarely gets to bond in a non-work, social environment which I feel is important because that’s where you tend to learn new things about your colleagues that help you bond closer. In order to better understand my team, their background, viewpoints, as well as motivations, I thought that having everyone share a little tidbit about themselves everyday would help us understand each other better and help increase team performance by reducing conflicts. I have to admit that this question that I and team members have told me is the one we look forward to most.
The New StandUp AGENDA:
1) What did I accomplish yesterday? What did I learn?
2) What am I planning on accomplishing today?
3) What blockers/unsolved challenges do I have that my team can help unblock/solve/escalate?
5) Answer Question/Word/Riddle of the Day
My Stand-Up Redesign was well received and now is one of the most looked-forward to meetings. If your Stand-Ups are bland or dreaded, try incorporating this new approach to your Stand-Up and invite feedback from your team to see if they like it. I believe Stand-Ups should be modified to work for the particular team using it and not the other way around. The Stand-Up can give more than just day-to-day visibility into a team’s work. It can bond teams and improve their long range performance if you dare to innovate.