Agile & Digital

Agile – do you need a stand-up meeting every day?

As organizations seek to get the benefits of agile working, one of key practices of agile, the daily face to face stand-up meeting, is being rolled out widely.

The idea originated in the tightly interdependent world of software development where small dedicated teams, where all individuals are in the same location, hold a short morning meeting every day to align priorities and get help on emerging bottlenecks.

The purpose of an agile morning meeting (often called a stand-up as participants stand up to keep it short – around 15 minutes) is to share.

1. What did I achieve since the last meeting
2. What I will be working on until the next meeting
3. Where do I need help or what is getting in the way of progress?

This has proven an extremely useful tool, for creating alignment and managing inter-dependencies.

The originators of agile methodology were clear, however, that it is not just about using the tools and processes but adapting them to your environment and the type of agility you want to achieve. As we take agile practices into the wider organization it is worth reviewing a couple of additional factors.

• when will a daily meeting make us more agile and when will it just take up more time
• how do we deliver the agile benefits when we are not face to face and perhaps not available at the same time (such as in a global team)?

There are a number of practical challenges to this approach in a complex organization, including.

• Relevance
• Delivery in a virtual and matrix world
• Cadence

Relevance

If your work is tightly interdependent and collaborative, such as where you are working on a short-term project with defined milestones and activity you cannot complete individually then you may need to have a good idea of the individual activity of other team members. A daily meeting will help with this.

If you work fairly independently with longer deadlines or running a continuous process or service, then you definitely do not need this granularity of information or a daily meeting. However, do not use this as an excuse for not “doing agile”- it is a matter of adapting the practices to the reality of your workflow. Whilst daily meeting may not help you be more agile in this case, you may still be able to apply other agile practices to your work.

We help agile teams identify the added value collaboration in their work and design meetings and other practices that support this in their environment.

Delivery in a virtual and matrix world

Most managerial and professional people in our client organisations are not dedicated to a single team or project. They work on average on four different teams at the same time, (the opposite of the strict agile methodology insistence on dedicated face to face teams),their colleagues are in different locations and most communications is conducted through technology. Many work with teams that operate across time zones. They cannot join four stand-up meetings a day and certainly cannot be face to face for all of them. There is no convenient time for a global team meeting where members are spread around the world.

In a post-COVID world we realize that not only are face to face meetings sometimes not possible, they are often not necessary. We can do so much virtually.

The challenge of delivering these coordination meeting live is significant. We help agile teams identify what relevant information they need to share and how this can best be delivered through technology and by using tools such as WebEx or MS Teams or through “pull” communication methods where information is made available but not “pushed” live.

Cadence

The cadence or regularity of your collaboration meetings should be defined by the pace of the task and the needs of the relationships within the team. If you have tight deadlines and high levels of interdependence, then daily meetings may be necessary. If your team is short-term and you don’t need to build high levels of trust and relationships your communication be less regular and intensive.

We help agile teams identify the right “heartbeat” of communication that will enable them to complete the task and build relationships they need to succeed. We can then build a communication and meeting plan around the cadence the team needs to succeed.

The implementation of an agile approach is not about just picking up a set of practices and, in this case, insisting that everybody meets every day.
If a practice makes you less agile and just adds cost then, by definition, it isn’t agile. Even the leaders in agile adoption like Spotify feel free to challenge whether specific practices, including daily meetings, really help the team deliver. Teams are empowered to change their ways of working if it makes sense.

We need to apply the spirit of continuous experimentation to our agile ways of working as well as to the outputs of that work. As agile working move into new environment we need to evolve its practices to continue to give us more speed and flexibility.

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