Project Management Institute

Daily torture

THE AGILE
Project Manager

If your agile meetings run late, stand up for the right solution.

BY JESSE FEWELL, CST, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Of all the techniques promoted by agile approaches, none is more abused than the daily stand-up meeting. From latecomers to over-talkers to non-talkers, I’ve seen more frustration and confusion caused by poorly run meetings than by anything else. In theory, a 10-minute check-in every day should be more expedient than a weekly one-hour status meeting. But in practice, it can be easily derailed by a variety of reasons, from long-winded team members to agenda-less formats.

Here are some facilitation tips to help you get the value a stand-up meeting is designed to produce.

USE AN AGENDA. The most effective format of agile stand-up meetings is to have each team member answer three questions: What did you get done yesterday? What will you do today? What is preventing you from making progress? If you didn't finish what you said you would, then you have to identify what issue prevented you from doing so.

Sticking to this format fosters both accountability and collaboration.

DON'T PROBLEM SOLVE. A daily check-in is designed explicitly to identify issues, not to solve them. When someone brings up an issue, don't derail the agenda by trying to get to the bottom of it. Finish the meeting, and then decide to follow-up with one team member so that everyone else can get back to work.

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ESTABLISH GROUND RULES. For a stand-up meeting to be effective, the team must establish and enforce some ground rules. For example, everyone must show up on time. If people are late, then they don't get a say in the issues raised. If early morning meetings don't work for some people, perhaps late afternoon is better. Have the team agree to a code of conduct, and then don't be afraid to have the team hold itself accountable to it.

GET TO THE POINT. Every team has at least a few people who are either too dismissive of or too obsessed with details, and who can drive any meeting into a ditch. To avoid this, tell team members to come to the meeting prepared to give their 60-second update—challenge them to be both precise and concise. Otherwise, people will get bored and will mentally check out.

FOCUS ON THE BOTTOM LINE. I have heard teams give a proper status every day, report no problems—and miss the iteration deadline. This misses the whole point of the meeting. A daily stand-up is not a status check. It is a risk-identification meeting. I coach teams to use the secret fourth question for a daily meeting: Are we going to fail our current iteration? The bottom line for any project is to deliver. Don't be the team that achieves compliance at the expense of results. PM

 

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Jesse Fewell, CST, PMP, is a founder of the PMI Agile Community of Practice and is participating in the development of a software extension to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). He can be reached at jesse. fewell@vcleader.pmi.org.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

JANUARY 2013 PM NETWORK

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