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Tips to Mess up the Daily Stand-up in a Royal Way

An Insider's View of What We Really Do and Continuously Ignore

26 February 2014

Bhavin Shukla

Once I was fortunate to get my hands dirty with a project team that wanted to go Agile but didn't know they were only fit for Kanban, having absolutely zero awareness about Agile. The team (and, of course, the business heads) thought A.G.I.L.E. constituted the five "vowels" of the Agile world (as in knowing "a, e, i, o, u"). Finding one person who knew what it was all about was as easy as planning a trip to Mars, logging into Expedia to check if any airlines provide a flight to Mars, and actually packing bags for the trip!

Being an Agile practitioner, and knowing what I am paid for, I knew my job well. I completed a detailed analysis and suggested that we "Kanbanize," since many aspects of Agile -- such as end-to-end testing, a demo-able product at the end of every iteration, estimation points, velocity, etc. -- were out of reach. I could see a lot of waste being generated, which could be reduced, and that's where I suggested that we improve.

But to my surprise, I learned a lot from the project, namely about how to mess up feasible Agile practices and still shout out loud, "Yippee, we are Agile!" Here are a few tips that could (but I genuinely pray will not) help.

Now, in a distributed work model, the whole world is a stranger except in the daily stand-ups. This was my first learning. So below are the tips that should be implemented in order to mess up daily stand-ups.

Tip #1: Well, there you are! You have somehow set up an audio bridge to connect with the product owner and other onshore resources. What you do first is fail to log in to the call at the right time. Let the product owner wait every single day until he says, "Guys, this is not working out. We need to adhere to a 15-to-20-minute time frame for our stand-ups, and we need updates."

Tip #2: Invite the entire world -- the offshore team, the onshore team, the product owner, ScrumMaster, business stakeholders, IT managers. . . . Wait, I think we are going wrong here. Somehow we did the right thing, whereas the intention was to mess up. All right, then, do not, I repeat, do not allow the ScrumMaster to open the call. Just don't allow him to talk during the team brief and hand it over for individual updates. Let the onshore manager, IT manager, and business stakeholders keep talking until it's time to end, then abruptly close the call without an ending note. The people who were expecting to contribute and couldn't should be left wondering, "What just happened?"

Tip #3: Maybe someone offshore (most likely the ScrumMaster, because he is religious about his role) is trying to put the discussion back on track. Don't allow him to. Keep saying, "Just a moment, we are discussing, excuse us for a while." We can discuss things "in private" during the call, right? Why is there a need for the ScrumMaster to know what we talking about? After all, we are big fans of working in silos.

Tip #4: Maybe once in a while we might not feel like doing a lot of talking during the stand-up. But what if someone ruins our spirit and tries to talk? Don't let anyone do that. Just pick up some story that has been blocked for ages and start questioning the story owner right and left. When, why, how, what -- ensure that a developer feels embarrassed. "Why was I born in the first place?" should be the feeling.

Tip #5: Although we have beautiful Agile PLM tools on the market and stories are already there on the tool, ensure that we do not update those stories before getting into the call, so that the business stakeholders are left in the wild to play a guessing game.

Tip #6: Provide ultra-comfortable chairs in the stand-up space so that the team can comfortably lie back until they are awakened to provide their updates (if that need arises).

Tip #7: Do not ever use a phone with excellent audio quality -- we can always say, "Your voice is unclear -- email me."

Tip #8: Do not hesitate to allow team members to flow in and out of the meeting room. After all, we won't be allowed to talk anyway, so what's the point in being physically present?

Tip #9: Allow as many distractions as you can. Mobiles can ring, the team can chitchat and update their Facebook status, and so on.

Tip #10: Although the call ends abruptly, do not ever talk/ask relevant stakeholders how to improve this process, how to get serious about daily stand-ups. After all, retrospection is a waste of time time and energy.

If your intention is to mess up the stand-up calls, follow these 10 tips religiously and you will have a sure-fire way to annoy the team and the stakeholders, lose trust, lose confidence, miscommunicate, and take the project from green (if it was ever there) to amber to red.

And the best part of this is, anybody on the team can take the crown for being the most jovial and fun-loving fella there!

Is it worth the fun? Yes? No? Watch this space for my further write-up.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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