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A New Take on Standup Meetings

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Short daily meetings are a cornerstone of agile project management.

Team members usually address three questions:

1.    What did they do yesterday?
2.    What will they do today?
3.    What roadblocks stand in their way?

Some teams use an alternate format with a quicker flow. Looking at a task board, an appropriate team member says how many hours are left on each task. Once a task is complete, it's moved to the next state (test or done).

If the team has capacity to take on more tasks, another one is pulled from the queue. At the end of the meeting, the team can see if someone needs work, can help another person or determine if there are any hindrances.

This meeting format emphasizes little wins as tasks are moved from state to state. People get some positive feedback and congratulate each other -- which is important to the long-term functionality of the team.

This type of meeting also keeps people from discussing work not related to the teams' tasks. It still allows space to discuss impediments and team utilization -- but only if necessary.

Teams using this approach can complete their daily 15-minute standup meeting in 10 minutes. More importantly, there's a feel of energy and drive in such meetings. 

The three-question format is tried and true. If you find your meetings feel sluggish, give this format a try. You may find it turbo-charges your meetings.

Which approach do you prefer?


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For project teams in different geographical locations the same effect can be achieved with virtual meeting tools. We at HP extensively use hp virtual rooms to share the task board and make amends online.

It's a great way to engage all the team members.

I have two teams using this approach, one working face to face, one working virtually.

The face to face team does the stand up in the room. There is often the need for deeper discussion on some issues, so the agreement we have in the team is Scrum first, hold further discussion to after the scrum. We are usually done with the scrum part (3 questions, moving tasks across the board, and marking down time on them) in 5 - 10 minutes. If there is any further discussion needed, those interested can stay, those not are free to leave.

We also use Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) for tracking overall what is done and when items are ready for testing, and to record defects. TFS alerts people via email when something is assigned to them, either for testing, or for defects.

One approach that has helped with getting defects completed is the testers post defects on the board in pink (tasks are in yellow). The defect tasks are moved along the board as well, but no additional story points are added for them. This visual helps in two ways -- developers are more motivated to test well before handoff as it is a sense of pride not to have too many defects on the board. Secondly, if someone is getting overwhelmed with defects, someone else can jump in and help out to keep the sprint on track.

The virtual team does the same thing on a conference call, and updates the tasks in TFS. It isn't as effective as being in the room with the board, but it's okay.

I agree the three-question approach is very effective for identifying lagging activities and getting right back on track on time. It has work excellently for my current project and is especially useful in projects where many functional units are involved.

These three questions are definitely as you said, "tried and true."

They not only make a lot of sense, but when you add a task board or do the stand up in front of information radiators, you can quickly pinpoint work or tasks that need to get done, blocked, or need more discussion outside of the standup.

Great points here!

I love the idea of stand up meetings, but I'd love to hear from folks working virtually on ways that you do a daily update and have everyone engaged. We post updates in tools like Yammer, use frequent conference calls, but it never hurts to hear new ideas!

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