Our Process: Standup

Standup at Bigger Boat

Note: This is the first post in an occasional series about our internal processes and how they help our work.

One key aspect of our agile process is our morning standup. It happens every morning at the same time in the same place. It is our simple daily routine that continues to produce great results. The team uses these 15 minutes to talk through the status of current projects by answer three questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?

  2. What will I do today?

  3. What is keeping me from getting work done?

The goal of these questions is to maintain transparency and provide more useful information than a review of a teammate’s calendar would provide. Also, with consultants and project managers working on multiple projects simultaneously, it helps team members take a step back and gain insight into what we are doing as a whole. To achieve these goals and remain as focused as possible, we offer three tips from our own experience to help you get the most out of a daily standup.

  1. Consider the most important thing you need to accomplish today. While very easy to say, this can actually be a pretty difficult step. We can easily rattle off a list of three things that need to get done today. But if you could only do one, what would it be? Use this “most important thing” to prioritize what you get done early in your day.

  1. Remember that a gripe about a difficult problem is not the same as a plea for help. Standup provides a time to vocalize frustrations, annoyances, and things that just aren’t going as well as they could or should. Naturally, a well-established, nurturing team will want to lend a helping hand during tough times. When in this situation, we try to remember that unsolicited advice tends to be unwelcome. Being told what to do, even when intentions are good, robs us of our freedom. And without the freedom to explore creative solution, difficult problems become impossible. Instead, we must remember to first ask if a team member needs or wants help before jumping in with a proposed solution. When someone does need help, one of our favorite things is the ability to do “just in time” discussions right after standup to talk through the problem at hand.

  1. Finally, be prepared, be present, and listen. In concrete terms, this means that all team members need to be in the office (or online when a staff member is remote) prior to the start of the standup, know (and are able to discuss) what their day looks like, and give their full attention to the person talking.

While standup is just one piece of our overall process, it has improved our internal communication, made our team more flexible, and generally helped us produce higher quality work.

Not bad for 15 minutes a day.