The daily Stand Up Meeting, also called a Scrum Meeting, is a cornerstone of Agile Software Development.
But it also has its place outside of software circles, many projects can benefit from the short, focused meeting that is "The Stand Up." This article defines what a Stand Up Meeting is, and includes tips on how to get the most from it.
Setting Your Goal for the Meeting
In the earlier tips to improve meetings post, we pointed out that every meeting needs to have a goal. This is also true for Stand Up Meetings, where the goal should be for the team to share what each individual is working on, and to track progress. This helps keep the project manager (or Scrum Master) informed of the teams progress.
So, if the objective is to disseminate status information and track progress, the Stand Up meeting is a good method to accomplish those goals.
The Stand Up Meeting Format
The Ground Rules
The meeting is held always in the same place, right away in the morning, as it sets the context for the rest of the work day. All project contributors are required to attend.
The meeting itself is time limited to 15 minutes, this keeps the discussion brisk and relevant. To enforce this rule, no chairs or sitting are allowed, which is where the Stand Up Meeting gets its name. Folks are uncomfortable standing in a meeting for a long period of time, so this helps to keep the conversation focused and moving.
The Big Three Questions
The conversation itself is kept minimal, no side conversations are allowed. The project manager leads the discussion, and asks each team member has 1-2 minutes to answer these three questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do today?
- What impediments do you have?
Answering these three questions gives the team a great understanding of where the project is at. The project manager can know immediately what work has been done, and what work remains. Armed with this knowledge, the project manager can track these against milestones and know quickly if the team is on track regarding timeline and budget.
For example, a team member starts his update with "Yesterday I finished widget X," and "Today I will work on widget Y." Everyone knows that at tomorrow's Stand Up, he will say if widget Y has been completed or not. This immediate feedback helps the project manager or Scrum Master know right away if items are on schedule.
Impediments and Irrelevant Conversation
Any impediments raised are the project manager's responsibility to resolve as soon as possible. In cases where the project manager is not able to resolve them, they should be escalated to the next level. However, it still remains the project manager's responsibility to follow up with the next higher level until the impediment is resolved.
Discussions outside of these three questions are not allowed during the Stand Up, but are encouraged to happen immediately following if necessary. This frees up people that are not relevant to the discussion to get back to work, but allows the team to meet quickly to resolve any issues.
Stand Up Meeting Benefits
Getting More Out of Your Meeting
There are several benefits to hosting daily Stand Up Meetings. It enables information to be disseminated to all team members quickly, because it is a brisk and focused meeting. That allows team members to meet without getting bogged down in irrelevant conversation, then immediately get back to work. However, if a discussion is needed, the relevant team members can stay behind to resolve the issue.
The meeting also raises the team's awareness of what everyone is working on. By stating what each team member plans to accomplish for the day, they in essence verbally promise their teammates that they will complete a task. This enables them to take ownership of their task &emdash; they don't want to disappoint the team the next day by saying they didn't complete what they said they would.
What a Stand Up Isn't
Keep in mind, a Stand Up Meeting is not a problem solving meeting. Issues that need to be resolved should be deferred to immediately after the meeting, and should only include the relevant sub group of individuals.
The meeting is also not a replacement for project management tracking. The project manager still needs to verify deliverables and track them against the the project timeline.
What started as a process for software development also has uses in other fields as well. The Stand Up Meeting can be an effective tool to manage a project and dissemination of information via meetings. It benefits the team by keeping the conversation short, but focused as to not waste anyone's time.