[Fragile to Agile] Daily stand-up [Scrum/ Huddle etc.] improvement suggestions

The essence of any successful team is its strong communication. Time and time again we hear organizational leadership gurus emphasize on the importance of candid and regular communication.

One of the key practices towards agility and leanness is timely communication e.g. a daily stand-up. A team gets together every day at a set time and shares the answers to the following three questions:

  1. What I completed yesterday?
  1. What I intend to complete today?
  1. Any barriers or blockers?

Over the past few years - various mutations have helped us evolve the structure and focus of these short status update sessions.

Here is a short list of suggestions to keep these sessions focused and valuable.
Your suggestions are most welcome.

  1. Give a one line description of the item you are progressing with not the story number.
  2. Collaborate (pair-up) with others first and don't start a new story.
  3. WIP (work in progress) limits need to be highlighted  don't start a new story.
  4. Handover the work in progress to the team and don't leave the story hanging on the board.
  5. Contribute to the flow of status update round and don't start discussions before completing the round.
  6. Next person starts immediately after the last person and don’t let them wait for a cue to move.
  7. Stop a conversation during the status round, capture the potential discussion items and come back to them in the end. Don't allow the side conversations to hinder the flow.
  8. Face the team and talk to them. Don't focus on the facilitator only.
  9. .
  10. .
  11. .

In the quest for continuous improvement - taking small steps, mastering and picking up the next is the key to success.

Amygdala - influencing the daily scrum

If your team has a varying duration of daily stand-ups – read on. Otherwise, this post might not be valuable to you.

Making associations across stimulus modalities is an innate part our natural ability to learn, retain and recall experiences. Deep inside our brain is a trapped area called ‘Amygdala’ (part of the LIMBIC System) which is responsible for the influence of emotional states on sensory inputs. This produces a spectrum of sensory perceptions from apparently identical stimuli e.g. face recognition etc.

Some effective agile coaches help the teams develop this recognition. A simple example is evident when different teams run their daily stand-ups. While one team will be very focused and lean in describing the updates, others struggle to stick to the scope of the discussion and require strong facilitation.

In order to enhance your teams’ – try to help them associate to a visual clue.

  1.      What I completed yesterday?
  2.      What I intend to complete today?
  3.      Are there any barriers?

A colourful notice on the wall stating the three questions to answer helps the team to stimulate their sensory inputs and stay focused.

Prioritize or procrastinate

Be it personal, professional or social - throughout our journey in life  we keep transforming from dependent to independent and inter-dependent. The key to inner satisfaction and long term happiness depends on how we decide to prioritize long term goals in every aspect of life. .

Learning to let go comes with maturity and choosing the right options at the right time.

Whenever you reach that decisive moment - ask the following questions to yourself.
You might find courage at the brink of uncertainty:

  • Do I have a good feeling about its current value (intangible cost of doing vs not doing)? 
  • Do I understand its long term value (over a six months to two year period)? 
  • Do I feel more passionate and productive about investing my time and energy on this right now?

As I write this blogpost - I am asking these questions on whether sharing my thoughts by blogging, is valuable enough?
The answer that immediately pops up is: "I have a good feeling about it and I feel happier, passionate and productive when such ideas are shared. Long term value is unquestionable as this enables me to improve my authoring skills by writing regularly."

What do you think?

Reference: HBR - The art of letting go

Root cause vs symptom resolution

Change programmes often come to a painful challenging state. 

Sometimes, the root cause is completely hidden from the apparently visible symptoms. At the start of such initiatives, some passionate team members commits to the improvement mind-set. They generated great and numerous ideas and want to address many challenges at once. Unfortunately - this approach is neither sustainable nor fruitful in the long run.

Instead of tackling many of the challenges at once, visibly enlist all the things you would change and choose the one with maximum net positive effect.
Take a good look at the list and think about the one thing (root cause) that would impact several things (symptoms) on the list. Make it short and simple. Perhaps you need to be more aggressive, or maybe you need to slow down, or speak up for yourself more often.  Revisit this list iteratively and incrementally. 

If you're not sure, try something for a few weeks and see if it's working.
Then, each morning, remind yourself of your one thing (daily team stand-up). Soon it will become second nature as the results reinforce your team's commitment to change.

Relative re-prioritization of a list of high level ideas on a regular basis could be the key to a sustainable change programme. Whether it is successful or not is another story - only time will tell...

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