Make sure your stand up isn’t a farce

Want your stand-ups to stand out for the right reason? Follow our four top tips for success.

The daily stand-up meeting may be a common sight, but having worked with agile teams, I’ve seen both good and bad examples. Most of the time it boils down to one thing – does your team treat the stand-up as just another meeting?

At Catalyst, we have a broad range of experience working in agile delivery teams. I’ve collaborated with my colleague James Carter, to provide our top tips to improve your stand-up instantly and ensure it isn’t just another meeting.

Here are our four key suggestions for running a great stand-up.

1.  Finish on time

Sounds simple, but sticking to the allocated time requires discipline. Everyone has other plans for the day, whether personal or work related. Running over your allotted time slot can result in people becoming disengaged as they realise they need to multi-task during a stand-up to make the most of an overrunning meeting. This lack of focus leads to missing a vital point in the stand-up – offering help and advice to others proactively.

If your team is struggling with time-keeping, all you need is two things:

  • a watch
  • an incentive to finish on time.

Maybe something as simple as having a box of sweet treats as an incentive to the team if they finish on time. You only get a treat if everyone finishes on time.

2. Remote stand-ups can work

Stand-ups should be energising and collaborative. Healthy stand-ups are indicative of healthy teams. Healthy teams are built on trust and aren’t afraid of constructive conflict and building on each other’s ideas.

Team building is hard enough when teams are co-located, but a lot of teams – particularly in my experience in banking – don’t have that luxury. Here are a few tips for remote stand-ups that I’ve used to build trust, constructive conflict, collaboration, and energise the team:

  • It must be over a video stream! You need to see your colleagues’ smiling faces.
  • Minimise email apps, development IDEs, etc – reading mails or tinkering with code during the stand-up is a sackable offence! (Almost).

3. Deal with people who don’t play by the rules

We go around the group in stand-ups, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to give their update. Everyone knows the one individual who likes to problem solve a bit to keenly. Interrupting the flow might mean we incorrectly hear an update and waste time addressing the wrong problem.

Try taking a juggling ball in to give a visible indicator of who has the floor. Pass the ball around as everyone gives their update, so people need to gesture to request the ball before they can speak, interject or respond. This tends to instil the right behaviours after a week or so. It doesn’t always work – but at least you can throw the ball at them if they still break the rules.

4. Set clear rules of engagement

Everyone has their own opinion and backgrounds of agile. While different backgrounds are great for generating new ideas and ways of working, it can be a hindrance if we each have our own unspoken assumptions of how stand-ups should work and expect the same from others.

Level the playing field.

  • Try creating a dos and don’ts list as a team. This ensures the ways of workings are known and accepted by all.

Examples of dos:

  • Do turn up on time.
  • Do ensure your blockers are known to all.

Examples of don’ts:

  • Don’t interrupt others on their turn for an update.
  • Don’t dial into the stand-up if you are in the office.

So there you have it.

Not only will these four tips help you improve your stand-up in short term, they also have longer term benefits. In my experience there is correlation between;

  • The discipline required to finish on time and the discipline required to fully deliver all stories in a sprint,
  • High energy teams and those who can work together well in crunch time to get the product over the line,
  • Allowing individuals time to speak and trusting in your teammates to produce the highest quality work,
  • Teams who play by the same rules and those who enjoy the greatest team successes.

At Catalyst, we are setting up clients for long term success by instilling simple and effective principles daily. If you’re interested in understanding more, join our Adaptive Enterprise Study.

Note: This opinion piece was first published by Catalyst prior to the Sionic merger