Is your daily stand-up FOCUSED?

In my current role, I have been working with a team that have been transitioning from the world of waterfall projects to Agile delivery. This team were the Agile pilot for the department. Their success has resulted in more teams being identified as candidates to begin their own Agile journey, with a view to move towards Agile ways of working across all teams. 

The change of delivery approach and establishment of new ways of working has resulted in the teams that are transitioning being introduced to Agile for the first time. The Agile journey for the individuals on these teams began with training sessions to introduce Agile (in particular Kanban) from another Agile Coach. I am now working with two teams to help put the theory into practice and to get user stories flowing through their Kanban boards.

The Kanban boards being used by these teams are an evolution of the board used on the pilot delivery. Updates have been made to the workflow based upon feedback from the pilot team at the final lessons learned session at the conclusion of the pilot.

My new teams are currently in the process of populating these boards with their work in progress as well as creating the Product Backlogs in conjunction with the Product Owner. As these items begin to be delivered we will be able to use the retrospective process to identify if the workflow that evolved from the initial project remains suitable, or, whether there are improvements that each team can make to the Kanban boards to help expose bottlenecks and/or impediments. 

Part of this exposure will come as a result of a daily stand-up. As each member of the team provides their update, it will be possible to see if the work being undertaken aligns with the workflow and column definitions currently in place. As the teams Agile Coach, I will look to observe any patterns that arise in order to understand where additional coaching may be required so that the team can refine their ways of working and implement the efficiencies that an Agile delivery can bring. 

The daily stand-up for one of the teams that I am working with started this week, while I also received an invite and attended the second teams stand-up for the first time. As with any team new to Agile, there were elements of the daily stand-up that could be improved. As much as the teams had been told about and discussed the purpose and structure of the daily stand-up, the stand-ups for each team are still in there infancy. 

So far the daily stand-ups have been very long, attendance has been patchy and contributions have not always come from the people doing the work. In order to ensure that these potential bad habits do not continue I posed myself a question. How could I reiterate the purpose of the daily stand-up without going over the same ground? One of the ways that this has been successfully implemented in other areas of Agile deliveries is through the use of an acronym. As the time-box for a daily stand-up is so small, I though that the acronym should be FOCUSED.

F – Fifteen Minutes

O – Open

C – Clear

U – Update

S – Support

E – Epilogue

D – Done

Fifteen Minutes – The time-box of fifteen minutes is identified in the Scrum Guide as the maximum length of time that a Daily Scrum (stand-up) should take. This means that for a team of nine people, they would have an average of 100 seconds (one minute 40 seconds) to speak. Having more people in the team reduces this further, which supports the idea of small cross-functional teams. The reason for the short time-box is that this is not a status meeting. The stand-up is the opportunity for the team to check-in with each other, to make sure they are continuing towards their goal (see Update) and so that they can offer help is another team member needs it (see Support). 

Open – The daily stand-up is a ceremony that should be open to all, however, it should be remembered that this meeting is for the delivery team to speak to each other about the work that they are undertaking – think chicken and pig. If a chicken has a question, it can be asked if there is time. If not, it should be asked at a suitable time after the conclusion of the meeting. It is more important that the pigs get to talk about and discuss their work in progress. 

Clear – Given the limited time available, it is important that the information provided by the delivery team is clear and to the point. Being succinct is a skill that the delivery team will learn over time, as they begin to understand what information is important to share as it may have an impact upon other members of the team. Where discussion begin to go off topic or take to long, everyone at the daily stand-up is empowered to intervene and ensure that discussion are brought back on track.  

Update – It is up to the delivery team to identify how best to share their updates. The Scrum Guide suggests the asking of three questions. To paraphrase the team answer, what I did yesterday, what I will do today and what impediments I may face. Other teams may look to get an update for each user story in progress. The key to a successful daily stand-up is that the delivery team knows what each other are working on and where that work may overlap so that they do not impede each other and that they are still progressing towards a goal (Sprint and/or delivery).

Support – A key element of the update that warrants further discussion is raising the potential for impediments. This call out for support does not mean an individual has a lack of knowledge or that they have failed to deliver, but an openness to collaboration and team problem solving. Delays in raising impediments and asking for support could result in multiple user stories becoming blocked, which could ultimately impact the overall delivery timescales. 

Epilogue – Hopefully by following the above advice, the content and quality of your daily stand-up should be improving. It is always worthwhile trying to keep a minute (or two) available for any other questions or comments (especially if you have some chickens in the room), or, to remind the team about meetings later on that day, fire drills, planned environment downtime etc. 

Done – Meeting complete. If there were any items that were turning into a discussion or status update, these should be taken of offline, or continue only once the daily stand-up has been officially closed. This should also help to minimise the number of people that need to be involved in the continuing update. 

Now my challenge really begins. Having identified that our daily stand-up should be FOCUSED, I need to share the acronym and the meaning behind it with delivery team and look to see if the quality of our daily stand-up improves. 

If you shared the FOCUSED acronym with your team it would be great to hear if this helped to improve your daily stand-up.

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