Friday, October 05, 2012

Making the Daily Standup Work

As the author of the paper Scrum in Church, I’ve been invited to give a talk about using Scrum in non-IT settings.  It’s hard to find a setting more removed from software development than a church!

For the past two years I have been working at Scrum Inc. where we do no software development and use Scrum to run everything.  It’s not much like a church either.  So, I was really surprised, as I reread Scrum in Church, to realize that the congregations I served and Scrum Inc. have many of the same challenges.

An issue I encountered in each congregation I served was that because the staff included part-timers and people who worked very different schedules, it was impossible to have daily meetings that included everyone.  Staff who worked on Sundays, took days off during the week.  Others worked 9-5 Monday thru Friday.  Part-timers by definition aren’t there all the time.

Scrum in Church.key resized 600In church, we decided to hold daily stand-ups every morning regardless of who was there.  So every morning, Monday through Friday, all staff who were in the building gathered.  After a while, some of the full-time staff who took days off during the week started dropping in for the Stand-up on their day off. 

At Scrum Inc. we also wrestle with having everyone at our Daily Standup.  We have two part-time employees.  Jeff in particular travels extensively, mostly in Europe.  One of us lives and works in D.C.   The rest of us are in the Boston area.  

Being able to use Google Hangout and Skype makes it easier for those of us who either work different schedules or are geographically dispersed to attend the daily Stand-Ups.  But, when one or more of us is leading a course or consulting, it’s not possible to get to a Daily Meeting, even for 15 minutes.

Scrum works best when the Team is collocated and everyone works the same schedule.  The real world rarely works like that.   There are no rules about how to adapt to those shifting circumstances, but here are a few techniques we find helpful:

1. If a team member can't make the daily standup, ask them to email their report to the Scrum Master so it can be included in the update, and then email the key points from the standup out to the whole team.  (Just the key points, not meeting minutes.)

2. Schedule regular face-to-face meetings.  There is no substitute for being in the same space at the same time, for the conversations at the water cooler, for hearing what people did over the weekend, for sharing a meal, and acknowledging milestones like birthdays and tenure at the company.  Design a travel budget so that people who live and work at a distance can get together on a regular basis.

3. Use a virtual Scrum board.  While we know that sticky notes on a wall work best, using the simplest most lightweight tool you can is the next best solution.  Every member of the team needs to be able to access the board all day, every day. (We like Pivotal Tracker.)

4. Focus on communication saturation.  When in doubt, send that email to everyone on the Team.  Make sure that all work is captured in a backlog story so that everyone knows what is happening.  If a document was the result of a story, attach it so all can read it.  If there is a meeting circulate a high-level summary.

At its heart, Scrum is about putting people first, about creating a Team, about excelling, about having fun!  We human beings can be an irritable cantankerous lot; we can also be a generous joyous people working to make our lives and this world a better place.

By Arline Sutherland
arline@scruminc.com

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