Facilitating Effective Stand Ups

Daily stand ups are usually conducted in the morning, although sometimes occur later in the day particularly when there is a distributed team involved, and this often means that team members arrive unprepared to share what they have been working on. It may have only been 16 hours earlier that an individual was focused but it takes time to get the brain moving and the creative juices flowing.

I have facilitated thousands of daily stand ups and there are a few things that occur during a given project, almost without exception, that need to be addressed and ultimately resolved.

Arriving Late.

The daily stand up meeting has a start time so that time is not waste, and that is the top priority for a scrum master – eliminating waste. If the team is left waiting for a someone to arrive they are left waiting, impeded by the uncertainty of that persons attendance, as a scrum master it is important to address the negligent party and appeal to their conscience that they are wasting multiple people’s time. It is a matter of respect and value that bonds a team with the level of cohesion required to deliver quality outcomes.

If an individual is not on time, continue ahead as scheduled and do not stop or become distracted if they arrive mid ceremony.

I have even taken the step of locking the door on a completely glass office so that when the repeat offender arrived and found they could not get in, it really hit home how disconnected this individual was to the team and that corrective behaviour should be considered for the good of everyone.

Laptops and Other Devices.

Nothing says, “I respect and value your contribution to this daily ceremony”, like hunching down into the glow of a screen while other people share with the team. Frantic typing is also not a great indicator that you are listening to your fellow team member.

Playing games on your phone like Candy Crush Saga equally not a respectful stance to take when other team members are listening and collaborating to deliver desired outcomes.

Come Prepared.

This last one is a given but often people arrive unprepared to share with the group and frantically search their memory for what they did 16-24 hours earlier, or take over the sprint board to remember where they were at 5pm the day before.

By coming unprepared to a discussion you end up spending the time when you should be listening to others, thinking about what you are going to say. I’d argue this is as disrespectful as the examples above because you are all set up, distractions aside and ready to listen but you have chosen not to.

Imagine how you would feel if when it got around to your turn to speak and you raised a point already addressed by another member of the team, a perfect opportunity to contribute and collaborate at the time, and saw the look on the rest of the teams faces. They know you weren’t listening and now you are expecting them to actively listen to you?

At the end of a working day simply grab a post-it note and jot down what you did today, what you plan to do tomorrow, and any impediments you would like to raise.

Not only will you benefit from being a confident team member ready to share and unimpeded to listen and collaborate, but you will also get better sleep that night knowing your thoughts and goals for the next day are safely written down ready for you.

Be Willing To Have Difficult Conversations

As the Scrum Master it is your responsibility to the team to eliminate waste. This can come in many forms but when it comes down to people and people’s actions or inactions, the required response is often to have a conversation.

It is easy in the short term to go in guns blazing and demand an end result, but you will only end up “winning” the point and “losing” the respect of the team member you are there to serve. The better course of action is to speak privately with the individual so not to have them lose face among their peers, and to highlight your perspective and the possible perspective of others relating to their behaviours.

Reflection is a powerful and empowering thing that enables and individual to take control, to be self-organising, and grow or simply heal as a valued and respected contributor to the team.

A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.

The real “win” is to facilitate the reflection so that the individual in question can arrive at the answer themselves. It may feel hard to do for some, especially early on in your career but it will have a strong correlation in the long run to the success of your career.

Facilitation is a truly difficult skill that allows for a desired outcome to be arrived at without the threat or application of force. To facilitate your team is to serve their best interests as a whole, as a tribe and community working towards a shared goal. Serve well and all will be rewarded.

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