Retrospective of the daily meetings

It is not easy to use immediately the daily meeting at its full potential: there are some typical traps that Agile teams fall into. Here are some of them:

Talking Chickens

Bad: Chickens (see Attendance in the daily meeting post) attending the daily meeting are allowed to ask questions or make observations.

Why is it bad?: During the daily meeting the only participants allowed to speak are the pigs (those committed to the project); chickens (those involved but not committed) may attend and observe but are not allowed to speak.  There is a reason for this rule: even if a chicken is allowed to make a comment one time – because the comment was actually useful – how do we later prevent a chicken from commenting (when the comment may not be useful)?

I give you a finger and soon you will take my hand and then my entire arm …

Of course one comment from a chicken may not hurt—but it will lead to others and then there will be no easy place to draw the line. Better to held firm to the rule.

Missing Pigs

Bad: Not all pigs attend the daily meeting.

Why is it bad?: Nowadays flexible working time can make it very difficult for a team to get together for a  meeting every day. However, having a daily meeting and having it at the same time and in the same place each day help a project establish and maintain its rhythm. Sometimes a pig cannot make it or we’ll have specific deadlines that are so urgent and so imminent that we may be tempted to skip a daily meeting. And that’s not all that bad. It’s when the situation becomes chronic or when too many pigs miss meetings that the situation begins to get worse.

If too many pigs come later then the time is maybe not suitable. If too many pigs are missing daily meetings too often then perhaps the meeting is taking too long. When run well the daily Scrum should almost never exceed fifteen minutes and will almost always be of value to each pig.

The daily meeting is for the project manager

Bad: The daily meeting feels like it is a status update from the team members to the project manager.

Why is it bad?: Sometimes you’ll see the project manager furiously scrawling notes about who committed to what work and why some other task wasn’t completed, exactly like the status meetings of other development processes.

There are two main purposes of the daily meeting and neither is to provide status information to the project manager. The first purpose is to provide a coordination mechanism for everyone on the project to get a sense of where everyone else is.

The second purpose is for each team member to make commitments in front of his or her peers. When they answer the “What are you going to do today?” question they are making a commitment to their peers, not to the project manager. At the next meeting if that commitment has not been fulfilled it is not the project manager’s role to say it. She knows what she told her peers and she knows if she didn’t finish because of random bad luck, a lack of effort, misunderstanding the size of complexity of the task, or any other reason.

Going into typical meeting mode.

Bad: In typical meeting mode, the team moves away from the format of the stand-up meeting and starts to discuss things randomly.

Why is it bad?: The meeting becomes status reporting rather than progress reporting. This can remove the focus for the entire team, which fixes on one or two important activities rather than on the goal at hand. It is extremely important that the complete team is focused on what everyone is doing across the team, to understand the dynamics and be aware of the direction. Keep focused.

Discussing everything now.

Bad: Sometimes a person brings a point to the group and it breaks into a conversation among two to three people.

Why is it bad?: It may be important to complete that conversation, but it’s more important that, if necessary, the conversation be taken off-line for proper discussion. Even if the point impacts the complete team, a separate meeting to discuss that point is needed. Daily stand-up meetings should not be used to discuss any one such point — focus on progress reporting is of paramount importance. Stick to three questions and don’t go into technical or functional discussions but schedule another meeting/chat for them.

Canceling the meeting.

Bad: Another typical thing that happens sometimes is that during times when the team is too busy or not loaded too much, some teams decide to cancel the meeting to save time. Or they fall into this trap if the project manager isn’t around.

Why is it bad?: Never cancel the meeting. If there is little to discuss, close it earlier. The meeting is not held to report to anyone but to keep the team’s self-organization and focus going. Discipline and practice are keys for an Agile team.

“They don’t need to know.”

Bad: Normally the project manager assumes that the team is focused on the work at hand, and this is great but often she keeps therefore information about new developments on the client side or information that client has been conveying, from the team.

Why is it bad?: This is fatal. It’s important that this information be passed to the team so that everyone is in the loop. Keeping in close touch with the client and its world adds to the entire  team’s success.

“Let me just talk to the client.”

Bad: Another misconception is when the project manager tries to take things from the team directly to the client, not involving the team. Or the product manager does it and is the single contact point with the client.

Why is it bad? : It is of super importance that the team is brought closer to the client. This is one of the unique and most important attributes of an Agile team in terms of collaboration and openness. It helps in multiple ways to engage with the client, and hence this tendency should be avoided. If a point needs to be technically discussed with the client, the product owner should not be afraid of inviting someone from the team to a discussion with the client.

One thought on “Retrospective of the daily meetings

  1. Pingback: Retrospective | Look back in respect

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