Having a stand-up at work?

At work, we started implementing Agile Development two years ago. Until a couple of months ago we used a Scrum implementation, but now we are changing this to Kanban. In this period a lot has changed but our stand-up always had his place. But is the stand-up a useful ceremony? Some say it is a waste of time but others think it is a gift. My idea is that a good stand-up can really make you better as a team. It is a quick and easy way to get an overview of who is working on what topic. Are you stuck? Just ask for help in this short meeting so that the project can move on.
It is true that you should ask for help whenever you need it. But this ‘forum’ is a great way to avoid asking help to the same people over and over. It is an opportunity for the team to manage themselves.

So as you can see, there are several reasons for having a regular stand-up. Why are there still people that don’t see the advantages of this ceremony? Probably because stand-ups can get out of hand pretty quick. Someone who keeps talking, discussions, people are not interested or arrive late. Those are all things that can be avoided with some simple rules. The article 10 Tips for a Great Daily Scrum Meeting provides a nice set of rules that you can apply. First of all everyone should use the same format when they tell wat they are doing:

” Yesterday, I completed…
Today, I will…
The things blocking my progress are…”

But the most important rule to me is “Start and end the meeting on time”. If you wait for someone, you will notice that focus will be lost. People will be watching the clock, because they have meetings or should get back to their work. People that are late should be punished for being so. Waiting for them will only cause more delays in the coming weeks since people think that is no problem. So when you are late, apologize and don’t ask to repeat what was said.

Having trouble to keep your Daily Scrum short and focussed? Try this tip: Let’s Save that Discussion for the Sixteenth Minute. We still use this from time to time.

Are you a resource?

Last week I was listening to a podcast about agile development, ’This Agile Life’. They had an interesting discussion about people being resources and why that is so wrong. Are you often described as a resource? How does that feel?

To be honest, I do not like to be called a resource. But the fact is that I’m often called like that. But as stated in the podcast, it started all wrong with calling the HR-department ’Human Resources department’. Who has invented this? We are not resources you can dig for. We are not resources you can grab from somewhere and sell for money. No! We are humans! We are people that can think for themselves an have the right to be called by our name. As long as there are resources, they can be replaced. Ever tried to replace a human, a colleague?
Hard, isn’t it? Old-Hundred-Gold-Mine-Tour-Taste-and-Tell-03
We are aware that children, relatives and the ones we love can’t be replaced with a resource. But still we seem to think we can do this at work. We love to make estimations, count available resources and move them between teams like playing a board game. But what we tend to forget is that even at work, people are very important. Since we have our own ideas, we interpret stuff in a different way. This means that the tasks we do, will be accomplished in a different way and with different speed than if it were done by someone else.
What I see at work is that we make estimations for the tasks we think we will do in the coming weeks. When one of my colleagues drops sick, we look for a replacement in the form of another resource. We need someone to finish a task, estimated two days by our sick colleague. No problem, the other team has some spare time so they can miss a resource for two days. Guess what happened? After two days, the task hasn’t been finished and what was already done did not fit with the principles of out team. How come? Simple, the guy replacing our colleague interpreted the assignment differently and did not know our principles. When you reassign a task to someone else, their is always the risk that estimations are not correct anymore. We know that, but we keep believing that we can get away with this. I can assure you, that is not the case. In the almost 3 years I’m working now, I’ve never seen someone finishing a task of someone else at the same speed as that other person. We tend to say that it are only estimations, but that is not true. We are so focused on numbers that estimations are seen as real promises. If I do not finish the task within estimated time, someone will be mad about it.
Who’s fault is this? The HR-department. They should work with us as we are people, but instead they are counting us and figuring out how much resources they can keep with the money they get from higher end. I’m not saying numbers are useless. They can be useful to learn from. And of course money is important so there should be someone to guard how much we cost. But there are other ways to do that. Focusing on effectivity for example.
So I will tell people to no longer call me a resource. I can think, i can speak and I can sleep. That is why I have the right to be called upon my name. My name is Bart, not resource.

What can you do about it?

  • Rename your HR-department to ’People-department’. (I’ve got this from the podcast ’This Agile life’)
  • Do not replace your colleague when he or she is sick, but find someone who can help you to take over some tasks of your co-worker.
  • Add a couple of hours to your estimations so that someone else at east has the time to check in what timespan he can deliver what you promised.