Monday, July 13, 2015

Agile Development: Stand-up

In my previous post in this Agile Development series I explained two ways to determine sprint duration. In this post I'll go into detail on what an agile stand-up typically looks like.

One thing you've heard me mention over and over in this series is that one of the primary goals of agile is to decrease the total time it takes to complete the feedback loop. One key way to accomplish this is with a daily stand-up.

In it's most basic form the stand-up is a time-boxed meeting (typically 15 minutes) where the scrum team gets together and answers three simple questions:
  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What am I going to do today?
  3. What am I blocked on?

What Did I Do Yesterday?

In it's most basic form this question is intended to determine if progress was made towards the overall sprint goals. Knowing, as a team, what has already been accomplished helps the team formulate a plan for what needs to be accomplished over the next day.

I've seen this question often turn into a check-list of everything you did during the day. But it's important to keep in mind that your goal is not to provide an overview of everything you did. Instead, the purpose of this question is to make sure that others are aware of how much progress was made towards the work you committed to the day before. This is especially important when work items in the sprint are interdependent.

What Am I Going To Do Today?

There are two reasons that telling the team what you plan to accomplish for the day is important. First, it allows the team to validate whether the work is really the top priority for the sprint. During sprint planning many teams will prioritize the backlog for the sprint. But because our feedback loop is so short the priorities of any individual task may change throughout the sprint or even daily.

The second reason this question is important is that you are making a commitment to the team to accomplish a particular task. You can think of it as your daily contract with the team. And in turn the other members of the team are making a commitment to you to get other work done. This is how the team is able to increase and maintain a particular velocity. The team is able to time and coordinate work at a granular level that allows the team to maintain a constant throughput. 

What Am I Blocked On?

Making sure that the team is aware of any potentially blocking issues allows the team to react quicker and not allow blocking issues to affect the teams throughput. Because the scrum team talks about this daily, it is able to address potentially blocking or blocking issues immediately.

If a particular team member is blocked on a technical issue, I've often seen the scrum team swarm on the issue until it gets resolved. This has the benefit of making sure any blocking issue that is an upstream dependency of other sprint tasks gets resolved quickly and the team is able to dedicate more of the sprint to work that was planned.

If an issue cannot be resolved due to some unforeseen circumstance the sprint team has the ability to adjust and pull in additional tasks into the sprint while the blocking issue is being resolved. Because we talk about blocking issues daily, there shouldn't be a significant impact on the sprint schedule.

Parking Lots

It's often the case that during stand-up an issue comes up that requires a deeper dive than the 15 minutes allotted allows for. Fight the urge to go into detail during stand-up on the issue. Instead, announce that you have a parking lot and who should attend and then table the issue until after the stand-up is over. This allows less of the team to be randomized by an issue that isn't directly related to their daily commitment. 

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