March 1, 2016
Avoiding the Stand-up Band-Aid
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.Agile Manifesto
Daily Stand-ups, Status Reports, Progress Updates - they’re all pretty much the same process and often represent (intentially or not) micromanagement:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What’s the status of X?
- Are you making progress?
- What are you working on today? This week?
- What are you working on next?
- Is anyone / anything blocking you?
- When will you be done?
Are these questions really that valuable to you, as a manager, or your team to warrant interupting each other for answers everyday? For rare, super-time-sensitive projects, frequent reporting may be necessary - but it should be an exception and not the rule.
I believe in a better alternative to stand-ups.
A Better Approach: Leadership, Expectations and Trust
All too often, teams will turn to more processes and tools rather than addressing the true issues.
- Are you unsure of what’s being worked on and the status of a given task or project? Maybe you need to get more involved with your team.
- Is your team missing deadlines or not following priorities? Maybe you need to revisit the planning process. Maybe a team member needs more guidance. Maybe a particular individual is not a good fit for the team.
- Do you feel like you need frequent status updates to make sure things are on track and everyone has what they need? Maybe you should ask yourself why you don’t trust your team.
Finding answers to these questions is better than adding a band-aid process to the team’s problems. Here’s how you can resolve these questions and concerns:
Agile is no substitute for leadership. Your team looks to you for vision, hope and a path forward. Leave no doubt, by communicating the core objectives and clearing obstacles out of the way ahead of time. Do more research. Take the time to understand the true problems a project is meant to solve. Break it down into digestable tasks with a set scope. Set appropriate priorities that follow a timeline that makes sense. Stay ahead of the game. As managers, we must follow through on our responsibilities if we expect others to do the same.
Setting expectations begins during the hiring process. When interviewing a candidate, you must not only determine if he or she is a good fit for your team but also clearly communicate what is expected of them should they join. Hopefully these expectations aren’t that they must arrive precisely at 8am everyday to participate in a daily standup. Instead, you should be empowering through autonomy with the expectation of diligence and getting things done.
If the expecation is to “get things done,” then that requires a certain level of self-management from your team members. If they’re tasked with a challenge, they should be capable of identifying unknowns and reasonably filling in gaps. If they have a question, they should do research and be willing to ask for help. If the team member is blocked by someone or something, they should not wait for a standup to talk about it. They should be expected to know how to communicate effectively and when a quick face-to-face chat is better than hiding behind email or Slack. Each individual should be expected to physically get out of their chair, walk across the room and talk with the appropriate person to figure out a way forward.
This should be the norm for a team. It’s simply a matter of clearly communicating responsibilities and what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of behavior, quality of work and follow-through.
Trusting Your Team
If you’ve set a clear path forward and everyone understands the expectations - then you should trust your team. And they will trust you too.
If you’re doing your job well as a manager then you should be well-aware of what the team is working on and when things will be completed. Trust your team and don’t waste their time with interuptions and extra process unless it’s absolutely necessary.
More often than not you’ll be pleased (and sometimes thrilled!) with the results you get if you have faith in people and give them the freedom to get things done.
Make a Change, Today
Take some time to think about your current leadership practices, expectations and level of trust for your team. Are you expecting and encouraging individual interactions over processes and tools? Are your efforts and processes achieving the results you want? When was the last time your team said “Wow, that stand-up was really helpful - I’m glad we did it!”? You may not need to make a dramatic change but try something different. Processes should constantly evolve and recalibrate over time to fit the team’s specific needs.
What Do You Think?
What has been your experience with stand-ups? What works best for your team? I’d love to hear your feedback! You can find me @smwrxforever.