Stand up meetings are most closely associated with Scrum and are called “Daily Scrum Meetings” within Scrum, but have become populare independent of any particular methodology which is a good indicator of suitability for mainstream use.
A stand-up meeting is simple to implement. There are just a handful of guidelines:
- Limit the time to fifteen minutes.
- Pick a regular time for the team to meet, preferably in the morning.
- Start on-time regardless of who is absent.
- Each person answers these three questions:
- What have you accomplished since the last meeting?
- What are you working on next?
- What impediments do you have?
- All discussion and problem solving is deferred until the end of the stand-up meeting.
- Follow-up as needed in smaller groups
The point of a stand-up meeting is to improve communication and to discover and resolve impediments, not to have a meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. If the team feels that other practices make the stand-up meeting redundant, then by all means reduce their frequency or even discontinue use until such time as it appears to be necessary again.
To help make this decision, let’s take a look at the expense side of stand-up meetings. First, people have to get to it. And then they have to get back to their computers. Scrum discusses how to minimize this time, but practically speaking, there is more overhead than just the ideal 15 minute meeting. If you are at a larger company, somebody has to book the room and let people know where it is. Let’s call the cost of the meeting 20 minutes per person. If you have 12 people in a stand-up meeting, that’s 4 person hours per day. That’s the equivalent of half of a person. Those meetings had really better be worth it!
Now let’s take a hard look at the stand-up meeting itself. One of the basic ideas of Agile (and Lean) is continual self improvement. If the value of the meeting exceeds the cost, then there’s no problem with the meetings, especially if they are eliminating other meetings. If the stand-up meeting is the only remaining meeting, that seems like a good thing. However, continuous improvement means we’re never satisfied. Now that you are down to just the one meeting, you should still ask the question: “is it providing more value than the cost? Is there a better way?”
What is the purpose of a stand-up meeting? To quickly find out if people are getting their assigned work done and if not why not. If it is more efficient to do that via e-mail, IM, an issue tracking system, or other means, then use those means. Someone might say “but seeing folks face to face is worthwhile.” Ok, so why not just do that then? Go out to lunch together or something like that.
Or perhaps the stand-up meeting is needed because otherwise folks wouldn’t complete their work, or people wouldn’t speak up when they run into an impediment. In that case the stand-up meeting isn’t a solution at all, it is a crutch. For instance, perhaps somebody isn’t completing their work because they don’t like it, but the constant peer pressure of the standup meeting is goading them into completing their work anyway. So then the real problem is lack of job satisfaction or low moral or something along those lines. Until you fix that problem, the stand-up meeting is just acting as a band-aid.
The real measure of project status and health is having an increment of shippable value at the end of every iteration. A standup will only expose problems that are on people’s minds, but the forcing function of the increment of shippable value is where you will get the true picture of how things are going. A one month iteration interval is good, but if you can get it down to 2 weeks or even 1 week, that may do far more to expose real problems than a standup will.
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