Our Thinking
Agile Standups for consultants
28 November 2014 | Posted by Chris Cartin

Daily Standup meetings have always been a regular feature of our agile projects and are increasingly being adopted by projects which aren’t strictly agile. A short daily catchup can be an invaluable tool, allowing team members to keep each other updated and identify any obstacles to them completing their tasks.

I’ve found that development teams are very good at running and participating in Standups but as a consultant I’ve found it’s a little trickier to give efficient updates. For developers, the day-to-day work naturally tends to fall into discrete tasks, which helps when giving updates. As a Business Analyst (BA) it’s a little harder to define and report on tasks.

Rather than a ‘top tips’ style list here’s a few real world examples of standup updates which could stand improving:

“Well, meetings all day yesterday and looks like meetings all day today as well.”

Yes, this is a real update, and it happens more often than you’d think. This is fairly meaningless and as a BA your life is going to involve meetings so it’s a given anyway.

 

“Yesterday I worked in user stories A521, A323, B462 and B322. Today I’m going to progress A345 and A532.”

That update probably means as much to you as it did to most of the standup participants. No doubt some people at the standup would know what the various stories are, but even if they did its a pain to try and decipher this! Much easier to give the story names or even better a more general update. “Yesterday I worked on the stories around capturing user addresses and completed them all except A462 which is blocked till the Product Owner makes a decision on the address format” – much more useful!

 

“Yesterday I worked on 4343 which is pretty tricky. I’m thinking we should get x and y’s input. What do you guys think? One option is to just iterate on what we currently have, but perhaps we should redesign the process and the screens? etc etc etc”.

Newcomers to Standups often mistake them for micro meetings. Instead, aim for snappy updates and flag if you need assistance. Shouldn’t really be asking questions during a standup.

 

As a sailor the obvious metaphor is a radio call to the coast guard.

A bad call might sound like:

  • Coastguard I might need help, got engine problems!

This inevitably leads to a game of 20 questions where the coastguard has to ask a long series of individual queries taking up all the bandwidth on the main coms channel and prolonging the whole process.

A good call would be a single burst of information relaying:

  • MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!
  • Boat name
  • Where you are
  • How many people you have on board
  • What the problem is
  • What assistance you require
  • How urgently you need it

This gives the coast guard ALL the info they need and only the info they need. They can then decide if they know what they need to do and can take it offline to a private channel, so that the main channel doesn’t become clogged.

A little preparation, consider your audience, provide context and flag what assistance you need. Job done!

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