Unified Stand-Up Goals – A Self Governing Practice

I’m working with a client undergoing a change to more effective ways of working across the organisation. There’s several Agile/Lean methods being practiced across the business for a multitude of work types. SCRUM is being used for some software delivery work and the Kanban Method for others. There’s a number of teams using a mixture of both and some teams simply visualise their line-of-business operational work and meet every day at a set time to discuss it…… which is fine……… for now. The philosophy of ‘Start with what you do now’ is working well and Agile/Lean values are spreading across the organisation.

I often observe stand-ups for various teams as this provides a great insight in to the work system that’s in place. It’s possible to see which core Agile and Lean values and principles are present from attending even one or two stand-ups and combining that with ‘reading’ the work board.

Recently I’ve sensed the timing may be right to enable stand-up behaviours as a lever for some alignment across the teams. Some teams are ‘iterating the work’ and some are ‘iterating the people’ which is cool, though some teams are conducting these stand-ups in such a way that promotes stand-up anti-patterns such as:

  • Promoting busyness over effectiveness
  • Reporting to the facilitator
  • Poor attendance
  • Status update only

The approach to remedy this has been to create a method agnostic set of stand-up goals, as a checklist. After I’d created a core set of goals, the list was evolved by anyone who was interested. It’s being used a data collecting and educational tool and not as a stick to beat facilitators with. Anyone can observe a stand-up and tick-off goals from the list as the behaviour is practiced. The observer adds the data to a spreadsheet so everyone can see the common patterns emerging across teams – a sort of democratic self-governance if that makes sense. People can see that every team is doing this, most teams are doing that and some teams are also doing the other. If there’s some goals that very few teams are achieving then coaches work with the teams where necessary. Optionally, a coach can chat through the list with the stand-up facilitator or the whole team where the practices and principles provide a good learning and collaboration opportunity.

Here’s the current evolution of the checklist:

Practice Principle
Iterate stand-up facilitation, take in turns across whole team Foster self-organisation
Confirm full team attendance Reinforce sense of team
Iterate blockers/impediments Manage flow, focus on goal
Identify any work team members can swarm on to get done quicker Finishing work over keeping busy
Confirm short and long terms goal up to date and still relevant Responding to change
Confirm avatars on cards that contribute to the goal, work right to left Work on the right thing, implement Pull
Confirm all team members have avatar on a card or team aware why not Maximise capacity
Invite the team to read the board: bottlenecks, gaps in flow etc Manage flow
Confirm policies being adhered to Respect current processes
Confirm avatars represent what that person is going to work on next Limit WIP
Keep the stand-up to 15 minutes maximum Respecting people

Item 5. stimulated good conversation between coaches – with people on SCRUM oriented teams initially stating that it wasn’t necessary as at any one time they’ll always be within the framework of a Sprint. Eventually we agreed that this is true in theory though only if the Sprint goal is clearly visible on the board. This has had the positive effect of SCRUM teams becoming Sprint goal oriented and not simply creating an arbitrary goal description to cover the User Stories selected at planning time.

I think it’s important to finish by reiterating that no team in the organisation is doing every item in the list. Work type differences, value stream differences, team member location differences etc all contribute to a unique scenario per team and it’s important that autonomy isn’t compromised. However we’ve found this technique is accelerating alignment and maturity across all teams and plan to apply a similar approach to work board characteristics next – I’ll come back to report on how that goes.