By Soma Bhattacharya
Never fear challenging the norm.
A standup seems like the norm for any agile team, part of the identity associated with being agile. As many of us all now work remotely, it seems that the right way to start the day is by attending the standup and getting the status items, questioning team members—and dealing with interruptions from multiple stakeholders.
Whether you like it or not, there’s no one rule for getting the standup done. It’s about connecting with the team and being there for each other without ruthless questioning.
So, if you are not answering the standard three questions (What have you completed? What will you do next? What is getting in your way?), what else can you do? Here are what I call the three acts:
- Socialization: Working alone from home for more than a year under pressure and deadlines hasn’t been all cozy, so take the time to just catch up with each other. Listen and get to know each other. Simple games like this one can help you still feel like part of a team and that you aren’t working in silos: The scrum master as the facilitator can ask the team to write down “one act that makes you feel proud,” written anonymously on (virtual) sticky notes and tacked to the team board. During the standup, ask team members to identify who wrote which sticky note. It’s fun, and you get to know each other—especially any members that have joined most recently and never met the team face to face. It gives them a better idea of who everyone is, and knowing something personal will always make you work better around them. No one forgets a good story.
- Intrigue: Look at the burndown chart, as this will allow conversations to start naturally on how things are working out for the team. This ensures there is no finger pointing and brings the group together. Decisions are made by the team based on the data and the general team trend. I find it far more effective than just the three questions. Another tip that always helps: Look at the buffer usage as a health check for the teams. Start with a 10% buffer in sprint estimation. Look at the burndown, and if you see the buffer is being completely utilized, find ways to uncover why and where the estimation went wrong, or if more tasks are being added later. Increase the buffer and continue to keep on checking on the team trend; you will either fix the leak or find the root cause.
- The wrap: Support and positivity should always be the closing thoughts. Even if the team is behind schedule, team members should find ways to work together and use the learnings for better estimations and strategies next time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your behavior, bonding and team experiences matter in keeping the team together during these trying times.
Changing the norms to ensure things are working for you—and keeping it that way—is agile. No one shoe fits all, so find what your team needs and try it out!