Will the Real Scrum Shady, Please Stand-Up? 5 Tips to Perfect your Team Stand-Ups, Virtually and in the Office.
Are you and your team struggling to execute brief, effective stand-ups that drive the right focus to deliver your project goals?
Do you find that a “brief” stand-up can soon become an uncoordinated, unfocused, meeting that does little to resolve your project bottlenecks or blocking points, resulting in longer project turnaround times, missed targets and ultimately, unsatisfied clients?
Here are some simple tips that can help you and your team optimise your daily stand-ups, regardless of whether they are held in person or remotely online.
Before looking into how you can perfect your stand-up, let’s establish the “whys” to optimise your stand-ups:
It provides guaranteed, dedicated time for the team to highlight existing blocking points and proactively highlight potential upcoming blocking points to the team lead/manager.
It drives ownership of team activities and assigned actions to provide clarity on who is performing what, within the project.
It improves response times to remove roadblocks and keep projects on track.
It puts the team on the same page on a regular basis which improves communication and real-time understanding of the status of the project.
It is a fast, efficient method for leaders to gather feedback on how the team is operating, the morale of the team and to understand if there are any systemic issues that need to be addressed (i.e. technical or process issues).
In summary, an effective stand-up will enhance project on-time delivery which will drive the overall success of the company. What should be a brief collaboration can become one of the more powerful and valuable management tools in your company’s repertoire.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the importance of holding a good regular stand-up meeting, here are 5 tips that that we can strongly recommend, to help you optimise your stand-ups:
Agree the time and frequency of your stand-up with your team to suit your team’s needs and to maximise attendance. Obtain agreement/buy-in from all stakeholders to this commitment and give everyone the opportunity to say “yes” for themselves.
Keep the stand-ups brief and simple to drive the right focus and efficiency.
Use a digital Visual Management board to get a real-time visualisation of the project and to be able to carry out your stand-ups if required to work remotely.
Encourage honesty from your team members to gain the best understanding of the real-time status of the activity. Avoid a “blame culture” at all costs by holding everyone accountable to their deliverables.
Be present and engaging in the stand-up (both leaders and team members) to ensure team members can support each other and collaboratively drive faster resolutions.
Now, let’s go into detail on these simple steps to a perfect stand-up:
Agree time and frequency of the stand-up with your team.
Start by ensuring that everyone involved is fully aware of when to attend the stand-up and how many times per week it is planned for, ensuring maximum attendance to drive improved collaboration and time efficiency.
I was part of a team that held a stand-up at 08:30a.m. every morning without fail, which was willingly pre-agreed by all involved parties. The decision to run the meeting daily was made at project level. Personally, I found that starting the day with a stand-up was a good way to kick off my day, gain clarity on what to work/focus on and ensure I could book time with the team lead if further discussion for a workaround was necessary.
For your team, a daily stand-up at 08:30a.m. might be too frequent and/or too early, so as a leader engage with your team to agree the best time and suitable frequency for your stand-ups.
Keep the stand-ups brief and simple.
This is a crucial part of ensuring you have effective, focused stand-ups that do not become detailed, technical discussions that consume everyone’s time.
Aim to keep the stand-ups to a maximum of 15 minutes and agree the rules (i.e. one person speaks at a time for a maximum of 2 minutes) to drive focus. Keeping a good discipline is key to achieving the desired value.
To keep it short and sweet, consider focusing on the status of the activity of each member and whether they are on track or not:
If the team member is on track with no potential upcoming blocking points, then move on to the next team member as there are no points that require action, either from the team member or the team leader. It can be as simple as that!
If the team member either already has a blocking point to discuss or a potential blocking point (or both), obtain a summary of what the blocking point is and whether it can be resolved internally within the team, or requires escalation. Log any actions, assign ownership and set a target date to realign the activity with the current delivery plan.
If any further detailed discussions are required on the topics of blocking points, book a meeting with that team member (and the required stakeholders) so that it can be discussed outside of the stand-up.
Put focus on existing actions and track how they are progressing and whether they will resolve the blocking points previously discussed.
Celebrate the team successes and make it fun! Appreciation and acknowledgement of achievements and success plays a significant role in creating a team self-esteem.
Use a Visual Management board (ideally digital).
In today’s digital, often remotely working world, I recommend that you use a digital tool to map out your project activities. While a physical board is a good place for a team to gather for a stand-up, it limits how the stand-ups can be coordinated and can become redundant if the team is required to work remotely. These limitations include additional manual effort, lack of communicating status between interfaces and the team has to be physically present.
A valuable Visual Management board will provide a “status at a glance” that allows for quickly identify blocking points, status, capacity and progress within your project. To do this, ensure everyone in the team has access to the board, where they log their activities and clearly flag any cards that require attention. This way, a team lead can utilise the board as a guide for their stand-ups. Furthermore, a digital tool generates data in the background which can be configured to function as live, on-demand reporting for all management levels without further manual efforts.
Select the right tool that allows users to assign ownership of tasks, indicate target dates, link their activities to top-level project deliverables and indicate the priority of the activity. Use symbols/icons or custom fields and adapt them to how the team operates to further enhance the real-time status visibility of your project. Remember, having too much information can make the board look cluttered, so ensure you have the right visual indicators to support a “status at a glance” philosophy which has been shown to allow organisations to leverage on faster response times, to drive their project turnaround times significantly and to profit from being able to do more projects.
Honesty from everyone involved is a key factor in establishing the value of a stand-up, improving project visibility and allowing the right focus on where further support is required. This ensures the team is on the right track, is also key to establish a high level of trust within the team and keeps the team as close to reality as possible, thus enabling decisions and actions that actually impact results.
For team leads it is critical that a stand-up does not become a “finger-pointing” exercise as this encourages a blame culture within the team, impacting morale, delivery, trust and valuable focus. As the cliché goes, honesty really is the best policy. Feedback is to be given and taken objectively and if given/received frequently it becomes a natural routine. In order to achieve this, it is important to be clear on the intention; we want to become better as a team and we are all here to support each other and the company.
Be present and engaging.
Ensuring that team members and the team leader are fully engaged in the meeting will keep the stand-up brief and provide the right focus. For team leads, this can include changing the order of proceedings to keep team members on their toes and ready to present at any point in the stand-up, encouraging the team to listen and support each other where required in the stand-up. Also agree rules with the team to keep everyone engaged, such as ensuring all phones are switched off.
For remotely working teams, use video calling software like Skype or Zoom, where all members are visible/present and the digital visual management board can be shared as a baseline for the meeting.
Act now to improve the efficiency of your stand-ups!
Sticking to these 5 points will give you and your team an ideal platform to carry out a brief and effective stand-up for significantly enhanced project execution and delivery that would drive your organisation towards its desired business goals.
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