Whatever you call it — “Stand-up,” “Huddle,” “Scrum Meeting” — it’s an important time for software and product teams to check in, get on the same page and keep the momentum on projects. Product and engineering teams have long relied on this daily ceremony to prioritize their day and align with their team on dependencies. However, the challenge with stand-ups is that many are just going through the motions, and they have become more ceremonial than valuable to that day’s collaboration and productivity.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Stand-ups started in the early ’90s, and the structure hasn’t really evolved even though the technology we use to build software and communicate with our teams has. So can we all mutually pledge to make our stand-ups fresh, focused, and productive with the proper process and the right supporting resources?
I’ve got some thoughts on what the daily stand-up should look like instead of the monotonous, to-do list meeting of today. There is also some data and reports you should look at to help focus your stand-ups on the most critical or blocked work.
The makings of a well-run stand-up
Stand-ups will look different for each team, but they roughly all have the same agenda that answers these three questions:
- What did I work on yesterday?
- What am I working on today?
- What roadblocks am I facing?
Getting at answers to those questions sounds simple, but what usually happens is everyone is scrambling to remember what they did or what they need to focus on. That last question is most difficult to respond to because individual contributors often don’t have the data or view into the larger context and dependencies. Managers are trying to quickly get a sense of where the team is and what tasks should be prioritized for the day before the group disperses.
Pre- and post-meeting prep
These days, teams are probably not congregating all in one office or even time zone. So given that the stand-up is the one opportunity a day, you will have the team’s full attention in one room or virtual room. Everyone must come prepared. Therefore, a significant contributing factor to successful stand-ups happens before and after — the preparation and follow-up.
Individuals need to look at their work from the previous day and note where they stand so no time is wasted. These meetings are supposed to be short and efficient. However, nothing is efficient about rummaging through notes or Jira to jog your memory. When questions or challenges arise, action items should be noted, and follow-ups occur immediately after the meeting so the team can resolve and get into a flow state without much interruption. This can be an opportunity to resolve disputes over the technical details needed to complete the issue.
As we move to become more data-driven organizations, how can we use the available data to inform the stand-up, communication can flow freely, and problems get resolved before they become bottlenecks?
Reports for Data-Driven Standups
The ability to prep before and follow-up after can be improved by having visibility into the right data. This happens partly through reports available in existing software delivery tools that only give you a slice of the picture. Teams with more complexity can rely on more contextual reports from a platform such as Allstacks, pulling together data from disparate data streams to draw out correlations, blindspots, and risks. What you don’t want is to a) be uninformed or unprepared or b) busy looking at issues, commits, and pull requests to piece it all together.
The following views/reports can help software teams run productive daily stand-ups without spending extra time in reporting tools or away from building software:
Work In Progress Report
Ahead of the stand-up, each team member should look more broadly across larger initiatives to get an understanding of status across projects so they can understand how it impacts others on the team. This is a good opportunity to take stock of capacity and offer to shift focus if needed to help unblock work.
At Allstacks, we rely on the Work in Progress Report (WIP) to get the teams up to speed on the status of each project. With a JIRA integration, the WIP Report aids individual contributors in taking ownership of their piece of the project and seeing exactly what needs to be done in the next block of time devoted to the project. For software teams, this visibility fosters team collaboration and communication to prevent duplicate work or miss-matched workstreams.
Similar to WIP Reports, Milestone Reports can be used to lift out details on scope, contributor activity, velocity, and other measures in real-time to chart the course for the coming day. In addition, team members can use the Milestone Reports to see where they stand, identify wins, and pinpoint areas where they may be facing challenges on a given project on a given day.
Individual Reports are best used by each developer or manager outside of the stand-up itself as part of preparing questions about specific workflow and work for tailored coaching. These reports show overall code production and quality along with the sentiment. By having these reports available, developers can self-diagnose where they might be getting hung up and identify where they need to prioritize their day.
Creating a Custom Dashboard for your Stand-Up
Once you land on the views, metrics, and KPIs that are most impactful to the stand-up (or any ceremony your team participates in), you should build out a custom dashboard with that info in one place for your scrum master and individual developers. In Allstacks, you can create as many custom dashboards as you need, so each ceremony has a tailored view.
Metrics that Matter
To get the most out of your stand-ups, you’ve got to be talking about what really matters. So for a sense of how to dig into the reports, I mentioned above, here is a video in which Allstacks co-founder and CTO, Jeremy Freeman, talks about the metrics that matter in leading teams.
He also talks about this topic on the blog often:
- 4 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Tracking Engineering KPIs
- How to Develop Outcome-Based Engineering KPIs
In aggregating data from the sources like Github, Jira, and Bitbucket, managers get a full view of what’s happening with their team. For instance, if you measure commit volume across your team, you can see when projects are a huge success and when code commits slow and needs attention. With multiple data points pulled into one platform, you can address slowdowns and discover where bottlenecks are happening. Thus, empowering software teams to address them head-on and prevent those logjams.
Whether you are an engineering, product, or agile team leader, getting the most out of stand-ups means getting the best from your team and delivering the best for customers, day in and day out. And all of that starts with having the right data in hand and personalized to each role and ceremony.