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A few tips on commonly encountered problems
Bill Hoberecht - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.         

So you’ve started conducting daily stand-up meetings, but the results are disappointing to you and the project team.  The good news is that it is possible to have effective daily stand-up meetings.  Unfortunately, the bad news is that all too frequently, stand-up meetings just don’t work well.  If you want to get the benefits from a well-executed daily stand-up meeting, your team will want to properly diagnose your situation, make some adjustments, and confirm that you have achieved improved results.  You’ll repeat these iterations of successive improvement as necessary to get the performance the team wants to achieve.  To help with your diagnosis, here are points to examine on your daily stand-up meetings.



New Behaviors for a New Type of Meeting

In part, successful daily stand-up meetings are about behaviors in a team setting – recognition by each team member that there is a new norm that requires their conscious effort to implement.  When you first started daily-stand up meetings for your project, you (hopefully) trained team members about the daily stand-up and established your team norms for participation in the daily stand-up meeting and follow-up working sessions.  This article can help you reinforce these norms by giving suggestions and examples that will help with your timely identification and correction of problem situations. 

 

Checking the Foundation for your Daily Stand-Up Meetings

Surf around on the internet and you’ll have no problem finding various lists of problems encountered by project teams in running their daily stand-up meetings.  For the most part, these lists deal with specific difficulties during the stand-up meeting itself.  We’ll get to those same types of issues in the next section of this article, but first let’s revisit at some aspects of your organization or project team that can derail your daily stand-up meetings before they even begin.

 

Is your project team ready to conduct a daily 15-minute meeting to synchronize the activities of the team members?  It will take more than just setting aside those 15 minutes each day – that, indeed, may be the easiest aspect of a successful daily-stand up.  Once you’ve conducted five or ten stand-up meetings, use these diagnostic questions as part of a retrospective (conducted specifically on your implementation of daily stand-up meetings):

 

Poor Execution of the Daily Stand-Up Meeting

This section is a brief glance at commonly encountered problems you may face in your daily stand-up meeting.  Some of these describe symptoms of a team that is having difficulty breaking their ingrained patterns of reporting progress (e.g., a team member presents their “three questions” to a “leader” and not to the whole team) while other  problems are the result of poor discipline in respecting the agenda of a meeting (e.g., storytelling, taking excessive time problem solving). 

 

Use the information in this section to help identify issues with your daily stand-up meeting and plan your own response to the situation.  In Scrum the ScrumMaster has the explicitly assigned responsibility of training team members in the process and enforcing that process.  If your team is not using Scrum, then ownership for those responsibilities will need to be clearly identified.

 

Observed Behavior First Response
“Everything is an obstacle.”  You’ve created a forum for people to identify obstacles, and a team member takes full advantage by repeatedly reporting a superfluity of problems.

Outside the meeting, investigate the details.  If the obstacles are real, then recognize that the current plan or assignment of responsibilities may need adjustment.  If the majority of the “obstacles” turn out to be imagined (and, thus, are “noise” that masks the true progress report), then agree on an approach of self-screening potential obstacles prior to raising them during the daily stand-up meeting.

Persistent low attendance or late arrivals.


Understand why the team is not supporting the daily stand-up and address that root cause.  It could be a trivial as adjusting the time at which the meeting is conducted.

Rambling presentations, perhaps with lots of data but no meaningful information.  You leave the meeting and still don’t have any idea if the project is on track to achieve the goal; as well, you don’t know if the work you are doing is properly aligned with the work of other team members.


Some people can give a brilliant impromptu walkthrough of the three questions, while others will need to compose their thoughts prior to the meeting - recognize which best describes you and make appropriate preparations prior to the meeting. 

Ensure that the planning information (e.g., burn down chart) is visible for reference during the meeting. Adopt a practice that each team member explicitly point to their work as it appears on the planning information.


Team members frequently present to a project leader (e.g., ScrumMaster, project manager) and not to the team.
  This deemphasizes the objective of the meeting as an opportunity for synchronization across the team (and not just a status report to a project manager) and may well allow team members to passively ignore the presentations.

If you are the ScrumMaster, ensure a mechanism is in place for letting the meeting start and continue without you saying a single word.  You are not present to ask the three questions, nor is your role to interrogate and probe for status information.  Let the team members own the responsibility for synchronizing their respective work tasks.


Diverging from the agenda (e.g. , problem solving, probing into problems, irrelevant topics), taking time that should be spent on synchronizing.
  It’s almost second nature for us to want to build our understanding of a problem and then give suggestions – we need this to happen, but not in the stand-up meeting.
These are the topics for follow-up working sessions.  Curtail any time (in the stand-up meeting) consumed by these activities – one technique is to point out the need for a follow-up working session and take the responsibility for scheduling that session (If you think you can set a time/location without much discussion, then you may want to do this as a close to the discussion taking place in the stand-up meeting; however, if this can’t be quickly set then don’t waste another three minutes discussing “when can we all meet to resolve this issue.