Welcome to Agile Hotline!

One of the Scrum Master’s we coach often calls us with problems he is dealing with. He joked that we should answer our phones as ‘Agile Hotline, how can we help?’. We decided it was such a great idea we are starting a series on our blog called Agile Hotline. These will be our answer to questions we get from people about on what they are seeing in their teams. Our hope is that others with the same problem can learn from them. So if you have any questions or things you are struggling with – please email us – and maybe it too will become a blog post 🙂

Question:

One of the teams I am working with, are not collaborating a great deal, this is something I am working on. The question is around the daily stand up. At the moment, its like they are just going through the motions, for them, its more a status update meeting. I called them on this and asked them if they were finding value in the meeting? Their reply to me was, if it isn’t a status update meeting, then what should it be.
I know in theory, if a team is collaborating, then its an opportunity to discuss how they plan to work together for the day, but with this team, until that happens, do I leave it as a boring status update meeting where no one really gets any value??

 

What we think:

This is a common problem. We often see stand up meetings (or daily scrums) that resemble more of a status meeting.

Two things pop to mind when I spot this:

  1. Does the team know what the purpose of the stand up is?
  2. Who are they reporting status to?

The first thing I would do is look a bit deeper into (1). Explain the purpose of the daily standup, which it sounds like has happened. Then look at the Sprint planning meetings and the Backlog Grooming (or Refinement) meetings. What behaviors are present here? Do the team work together to understand a problem (or story)? Do they plan together how to solve this problem? O

Often when stand ups resemble a status meeting each person is working on their own piece of work and as it is isolated from everyone else, they don’t really need to know what others are doing.

Some things to try if this sounds familiar:

  • See if you can get a few people to work on a problem together.
  • Try doing planning without making any assumptions about who will do the work.
  • Add in the 4th column “Show Me”.
  • Try to give your sprint a goal rather than just a bunch of problems vaguely related. For example: Lets say “Pay with credit card” was broken down into 4 stories. Instead of working on story 1, 2, 3, 4, try to phrase this as we are going to get the “Pay with a credit card” functionality complete. The focus should be on getting the goal finished. As all 4 stories relate to this, it creates a sense of awareness on the team, as all need to be completed and working together for the goal to be achieved.

Now lets look at who the team is reporting status to. This could be the boss, or Product Owner and often we see this as the ScrumMaster.

Here are some ideas of things to try:

  • Try and get that person to attend standups every alternate day.
  • Another idea is to ask that person to stand back from the board, BEHIND the team. This sends a visual signal that they shouldn’t be spoken to, they are just there to listen. Ask them not to speak at the standup. Guide the team to talk to the board and each other.
  • As a ScrumMaster ask each member of the team a fourth question “How confident are you that we will achieve our commitment (or goal if you are using that)?” For anything less than 100% ask the team what they can do to get back on track. This gets everyone engaged and working towards solving a shared problem.

Remember that collaborating with others comes naturally to children. Then at school we are taught to work by ourselves in isolation. Now we are asking people to unlearn 12 years of working in isolation (and possibly many more years of working in this way). It is a change, and it feels odd at first. So be patient and go slowly. Highlight when things went well due to collaboration.

If you have any questions or things you are struggling with – please email us – and maybe it too will become a blog post 🙂
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