Agile QuickTip: Schedule Follow Up Times

Have you considered using scrum follow-ups to keep your scrum meetings on point? One problem that scrum or agile teams have to contend with is the long daily scrum. The most effective daily scrum meetings are between 10 and 15 minutes, keeping the content brief but relevant. Instead of hitting that target, we often see teams struggling with meetings that are consistently 30 or 40 minutes – much longer than you want it to be.

One of the reasons that this happens is team members getting into the weeds and details during the scrum – trying to solution problems or resolve issues during the scrum.

Having scheduled times dedicated to scrum follow-ups can help alleviate the need for these detailed discussions during the scrum itself.  This shouldn’t be a specific meeting but rather blocked-off time – perhaps 30 or 40 minutes – where people know they can follow up on issues raised in the scrum or get any further clarification they may need.

There are three keys to making this work:

  1. Schedule the scrum follow-ups at a consistent time – try to make sure it is the same each day.
  2. Ensure that you schedule the time in people’s calendars, otherwise you risk other meetings being scheduled over them.
  3. Have team agreement to always give priority to the follow-up. No matter what you are working on, if a team member seeks assistance during the follow-up time, helping that team member takes priority.

With these guidelines in mind, scheduled follow-up times can make your daily scrums more focused and effective.

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Agile QuickTip: Start Scrums at Off Times

One of the most common frustrations that teams have with their daily scrum meeting is getting everyone to show up on time. Could the answer be, start at off times?

The daily scrum – or standup – is intended to be no longer than 15 minutes, so when team members show up 5 minutes late, that’s a third of the scrum that they’ve missed. Teams wrestle with the whether to catch latecomers up on what’s been said — losing the momentum of the scrum team — or simply moving ahead with gaps in the updates.  Often times, team members find themselves simply waiting until everyone shows up before getting started.

One idea that could help encourage people to show up at the right time, is scheduling the scrum for “off times” rather than at the top or bottom of the hour. Instead of starting at 9.00am, or 9.30am, try scheduling it 9.04am, or 9.36am.

This gives team members a few extra minutes to finish up with a previous meeting making it more likely they will be on time to the scrum. Secondly, scheduling meetings at off times make participants more aware of the meeting time. They check their watches more often; are more nervous about missing the start; and therefore will be more likely to remember that it’s time to attend.

Test this idea out with your own teams, and see if it makes a difference, reducing your frustrating wait periods and getting your scrum participants through the door on time, every time.

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Agile QuickTip: Popcorn Scrums

The daily scrum is an integral part of any scrum team. Here you can discuss what you’ve been working on the previous day, bring up challenges that are standing in the way of progress, and set the context for the day’s work. But have you heard of the Popcorn scrum method?

One of the challenges that a lot of Agile teams have is figuring out the order of speakers. It’s complicated further by virtual or distributed teams dialing-in from disparate locations.

Traditionally, the order of speakers is usually decided by a facilitator – typically the ScrumMaster. The Popcorn method can help your team and your daily scrum to be more effective.

The idea is simple. The current speaker chooses the next person to give an update, the one who will speak next. Think about it like ‘passing the mic’. This has three main benefits:

  • Facilitation becomes simpler, without one person needing to be in charge of the scrum, and with a more natural running order based on the updates and the conversation at hand.
  • The process is the same each time, no matter who is attending the meeting. Teams are not reliant on one facilitator and everyone in the company knows what to expect.
  • This method promotes participation and attention. Team members will spend a bit more time thinking about what’s been said, who hasn’t spoken yet and who is important to include. As participants could be called on to engage at any point, it pushes all members of the team to pay closer attention.

Give it a try at your next daily scrum, and see how this one change can effortlessly make your team meetings more effective.

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