It was a reminder on my phone for the daily standup. I have 10 more minutes until the meeting begins. Just enough time for me to gather my thoughts to prepare for that 15-minute standup.
To be honest, the word ‘meeting’ used to send a chill down my spine and make me mentally groan like a wounded troll every time my reminder went off.
The thought of having to sit through another hour-long meeting that never seems to reach a conclusion or direction because we spent more time beating around the bush instead made me shudder.
Eventually, the objective of meetings lost its meaning and became a dreaded routine.
Going agile made routine fun
It wasn’t until 2011 when I was first introduced to the concept of agile that I began looking at meetings in a different light. It all started with this question:
Can we please have shorter and more efficient meetings?
The practice of a 15-minute standup came into place and it instantly changed the dynamics of the team. Sure, we still had more meetings every other day, but going agile has made at least one daily meeting so much more bearable.
Understanding the ‘Why’ of a standup meeting
While I enjoy having shorter meetings in the form of a 15-minute standup, I never really looked into the importance or the “Why” factor of it until recently.
I always thought it was about providing updates of the week so that the team leader can make sure the team is in-sync and that was it.
Then came the lightbulb moment during a brief conversation with our agile coach, Ólafur, the other day. On that particular day, our team had conveniently skipped our standup because our team lead wasn’t around – there was no one to lead the meeting.
I can assure you that the standup is for you, not the team lead.
It was then I realized standups became such a huge part of my routine that I only attended them because it was on my schedule – without realizing its importance and benefits to me in the following ways:
#1 Face-to-face conversation
Look through the agile manifesto again, and you’ll find this statement:
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
A standup is a great time to connect to my teammates with a question, request or statement instead of bombarding them with more emails. In fact, it shortens the response time so much that I can instantly get on with my tasks after the meeting.
#2 Opens up window of opportunity for collaboration
Raise your hand if you tend to zone out or think about what you need to say while someone else is giving their updates during a standup.
However, updates are not just about staying in sync. It is also an opportunity to form a collaboration for the team to move towards the bigger picture simply by asking these questions:
- What kind of support do I need from my team/this person?
- How can I support this person in his/her work?
- What kind of collaboration can we form to make this product/campaign/project better?
- Is this task fulfilling the objective that we set out with?
(If not, then we should consider eliminating it)
#3 Opportunity to eliminate impediments
It’s not uncommon for progress to be disrupted or come to a halt due to impediments.
- A malfunctioning computer
- A team member who is unavailable for the project period
- An ambiguous milestone
- Anything that hinders progress
Standups are held with the understanding that each team member is open and honest about their progress. If someone is being held back by an impediment, another team member may offer support in moving forward.
Hence, a window of opportunity for collaboration to eliminate impediments.
#4 Commitment to meet goals
I like to think that what we say in a standup is like a professing a marriage vow in front of an audience. While it is not about ‘till death do us part’, a standup is a platform where we commit to completing our work in a said timeframe.
Saying “I will finish this by Thursday” means that we are holding ourselves accountable to the rest of the team that the task will be done by Thursday. If it is not, point #2 and #3 will certainly come in handy.
#5 Less is more
Considering our attention span nowadays or how we sometimes overestimate our time, less is definitely more. You know how we only think of the most urgent things when we’re really pressed for time?
A 15-minute standup meeting is a good platform to learn how to eliminate tasks that are important but not urgent. After all, the team only has that amount of time to discuss what’s urgent and important and what’s not before having to come to a conclusion for the day.
Less is more, what’s not to love?
Exercise mindfulness in the next standup
Ever since that conversation, a standup was no longer just another routine meeting. With a little more mindfulness and understanding of its importance, I was able to get so much more out of the following standup in order to use it to my benefits.
So, should we conveniently skip our daily standup the next time our team leader isn’t around?
I don’t think so.