Bringing continuous improvements into your agile process: A different Daily Meeting

Congratulations on holding the Reality Check ceremony! You never had the same problem again and now your business plan changes faster according to the nuances of your development plan. (To check what I’m talking about, check the first blog post of this series: Bringing continuous improvements into your agile process: The Reality Check Ceremony).

Your product starts to get fancier, and your clients begin to subscribe… That is just amazing! However, your team is feeling a little unmotivated. You start participating on their retrospectives to check how you can help and you see a pattern: people are complaining, in other words, the Agile Specialist is micromanaging everyone.

You decide to closely follow the team during a month, investigating what are the things happening there that are discouraging them. Suddenly, you see yourself in a daily meeting, in which everyone talks about what they did and what they’ll do. Soon enough you spot the problem: they are using the daily meeting to report work instead of spreading knowledge and removing blocks. But what now? How to achieve those goals without the reporting feeling?


The feeling of a micromanaging daily ceremony always caught me while working in the industry as a developer. I always thought people wanted me to report what I was doing, with the intention of knowing exactly how efficient I was. That caused different kinds of behaviors, the most common was to do more things at once, to show I was working more.

However, doing more tasks at the same time might slow everything down, make your work less valuable and affect the rest of the team. More on that subject can be found in these blog posts:
* Case Study of a WIP Limit Implementation: Why, When and How to use WIP Limits
* The Hero Syndrome and how to deal with it

Therefore, to overcome that situation, we at Plataformatec started using a different approach in the daily meeting. We saw that the problem of the “old way” was that teams were focusing on what each person did instead of on the progress of the project itself. With that in mind, we just changed the focus. Instead of asking people what they did, we started asking cards.

No, we are not going mad (I guess)… And of course, we didn’t talk to a post-it either (even though talking to inanimate objects may help on development, like rubber ducks). However, we changed the way we asked things. Here is how we do it:

We go over the board, from right to left, asking the whole team how is each card’s development:

  • How is its development? Any technical difficulties?
  • Is there anything blocking its development?

You may say that it is not that different from what a usual Daily Meeting looks like. However, let me point out the differences and their importance:

  • We look at the cards on the board, from right to left. By looking at the card further in the process, we are looking at the feature that will most likely bring value in the short term.

Kanban

  • The questions are directed to the team, not to a person. Asking the whole team about a card brings back the team sense that we lose asking individuals. It shows that we don’t care about who is working on it, and how much. We care about that project’s development.

  • The questions’ subject is not “you” anymore, it is “it”. We used to ask things like “What have you done the past day? What are the blocks that you had?” etc. By changing the subject, you reinforce that the focus is on the feature development, and you also make the team talk only about what is important to the project, and not about peripheral topics.

  • Extra: We simply look more at the board. Yes, that simple. You probably experienced that, with time, people start to not spend as much time as they did at the beginning of the project looking at the board. The simple fact that we are using it to run the ceremony, brings attention to it and we can easily spot when someone is overworking, when a card has been at the same column for too long or other related issues.

Conclusion

What we suggest here is not a big change, actually, is pretty subtle. Instead of focusing on what people did, focus on what is being developed. You’ll see great improvements in people’s feelings, everyone will be in touch with the process everyday through the board and, as the famous Lean quote states, people will stop starting tasks and start finishing them.

What do you think? Would you use this method? Leave your comments below!


Download: Forecasting software project through Monte Carlo simulation (FREE spreadsheet)
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