Stand Up, Sit Down, Just Collaborate

I haven’t blogged in a while. I started a new job and I’ve just been busy getting acquainted. Well at the new gig we have been exploring ways to improve as a team. Stand ups have been brought up a few times.

I Hate Stand Ups

In my experience stand ups have been over rated status meetings. Maybe that’s because I haven’t been on a team doing scrum correctly or maybe standups are dumb, I’m not sure. I have done standups for years on multiple teams and there was waste in every one of them. There were some standups that were too big and ended up with a bunch of people with blank stares because most of the standup was irrelevant to them. There were some that were too small and redundant because the team collaborated closely throughout the day, so nothing new in standup. There were some that were unwieldly and not focus on standard scrum standup reporting and just a big waste of time. In most, there have rarely been instances where blocks were unblocked or time not wasted.

In all of these stand ups I had the feeling that there must be a better way than doing a thing in a religious fashion just because some abstract process that the community follows like sheep says so.

I envision a life without standups with a process that provides easy ongoing reporting of project status and impediments. Discussing project status is important for determining if a project is on schedule and if the financial goals of the project will be met. Discussing impediments are important because resolving issues that are blocking tasks will help prevent the project schedule from being in jeopardy and helps reduce frustration.

There is usually someone that is responsible for project status reporting. This person can make daily rounds and collaborate with the team on the collection of regular status and to work through some of the project impediments. I say some because some impediments are technical and require another team member to solve. Anyway, all of this could be done in a status meeting, but status meetings whether they are sit down or stand up have a tendency to turnout just like my experience with standups. One-on-one collaboration on status whether it is face-to-face, IM, or phone may be extra work, but I believe it provides more value in terms of time and effectiveness for the team. If you want to keep it srum’ish, the status walk through can be time boxed to a certain amount of time per person.

We addressed project impediments, but what about technical ones. We are a team, why can’t we just collaborate? Most likely you have an idea of who to ask for technical help and if you don’t you know how to reach out to your team to find out who can help. Go talk to someone. If you can’t ask your teammates for help for whatever reason, your team has a problem. I have been on teams with people who were closed to answering questions, but this is a new agile day. If you don’t want to help the team, you need to go solo. You don’t deserve to benefit from the fruits of the team’s labor if you don’t want to contribute to the team. If you are scared to ask for help, get over it. When you are wasting time on something that can be solved by just asking someone on the team is a disservice to your team. Taking a little time to discuss a problem and get pointed in a new direction is not an indictment of your skills. It’s a reason for you to collaborate and become a more cohesive team. This is not to say that you shouldn’t put in your due diligence or pound the same person with multiple questions day in day out. Become a nuisance and you may get voted off the island.

I guess my point is, you can be agile without scrum, you can do scrum without standups. If a process isn’t working, improve it.

OK, end rant… for now.

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