Staying Focused at Stand-up

Having learned what Scrum and XP could do; I convinced the next organization I joined to try Scrum, with me as the ScrumMaster. The company built a reservation booking and payment engine called vianet.travel. Small proprietors with manual bookkeeping used it to advertise and rent out their places to people on holiday.

Stand-ups Take Too Long

Splitting my time as a developer and ScrumMaster, I was as likely to join in the conversation during stand-up. Stand-ups took too long, where we did more talking than we should.  Sometimes it took us over an hour for everyone to answer the three questions.

Noting Who Speaks

Instead of employing a draconian measure like using a stopwatch and forcing time limits for each person, I decided to listen for someone responding to another person answering the questions. I paid attention to people who spoke for a long time. I jotted down in a notebook the names of those who spoke and what seemed to be the heart of the issue.

Nobody at stand-up said anything about my note taking. As I wrote, sometimes help was offered to the person speaking. Sometimes the team had moved on to the next person before I had finished writing it down. Otherwise, I waited for a pause and would remark that I had made note of who was conversing, and wondered if we could move on to the next person. At the end of stand-up I went through who was having conversations, in case people needed to follow up.

Finding the Purpose of Stand-Ups

Stand-up time decreased to less than 15 minutes and most people would leave to do whatever was next on their list for the day. Occasionally some people would find themselves in a follow-on session. These optional sessions allowed us to end on time, with the opportunity for some people to get back to work, while others could continue discussing the plan if needed.

Before long, I added a blocker board next to our task board. Sticky notes replaced my notebook for recording the impediments that came up in the discussion. At the end of stand-up I answered the three questions as a developer. As ScrumMaster I went through the new impediments raised and gave people a chance to verify or add others. I then reported on what impediments were removed yesterday, which ones were being worked today and what was in the way of removing impediments.

Clearing Impediments

This visibility allowed others to help me when they could, since I was splitting my time between ScrumMaster and developer. Seeing the impediments on a board allowed management to volunteer help with impediments that we as a team were unable to remove. Highlighting what was in our way made us want to remove them faster. Agreeing on what was in our way and how to remove it let us have the courage to attack the problem while respecting each other the entire time.

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