Life Lessons From Daily Stand Ups
Everybody on the face of the earth knows about Agile right? No?
Okay, not everybody knows about Agile, but everybody, at some point or the other, has heard about Agile yeah? Nope? Really? Okay, if you haven’t heard of Agile before, let me take a minute or two to introduce Agile to you, starting right from what Agile is, and what it is not.
AGILITY is the ABILITY to balance STABILITY with FLEXIBILITY. For a second, forget the line you just read. Agile is an iterative method of delivering incremental products and values to customers faster. Widely popular within the software development circle, but definitely not limited to software or product development. Agile is being used in lots of other industries and domains aside from IT. It focuses on constantly producing valuable incremental products to customers.
In the early 2000s, a group of 17 thought leaders and practitioners gathered together somewhere in Utah and created what is popularly known as the AGILE MANIFESTO, speaking to what the practice sees more values in, against other concepts.
Agile has so many methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Xtreme Programming, Lean etc. Surely, there are lots of articles and resources online about Agile principles and values. As Agile is not the focus of this article, I will like to take us back to the focus of the article
Scrum, arguably the most popular and widely used method in the Agile Practice has a set of roles, artefacts and ceremonies. One of the ceremonies (events) is called DAILY STAND UP (also known as daily scrum or daily hurdle), a daily meeting of the Scrum team typically time boxed between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the flexibility and choice of the team. During the stand-up, the team holds the meeting standing up (hence the name Daily Stand Up) and three important and inter-related questions are asked:
- What did you do (accomplish) yesterday
- What do you plan to do(accomplish) today
- What are the impediments in your way
From participating in Daily Stand up, and my understanding of the practice, I have been able to draw three life lessons, which every professional should adopt.
- Where you are now: A very popular Management philosophy states that the first step towards progress is an understanding of where one is, and this is by all means similar to the practice in Daily Stand Up. During a Daily Stand Up, the first question and/or report given by every team member is what they have achieved till date (what did you do yesterday). Said in another way, what the current state is. For those involved in Strategy Analysis/Management, the first step in any initiative is to conduct an analysis of the current state. Why is this important? It gives a professional an understanding of the Strength and Weaknesses, and a sense of achievement so far. At every point in one’s life, it is best to access the current state. I often find professionals get too busy that they forget to “take stock”, but I have come to understand the importance of this task from Daily Stand Up to Life as it is
Interestingly, I have witnessed organizations adopt this same practice. I recall participating in several retreats and strategy sessions at the beginning of the year/quarter/month etc, and during those sessions, the usual practice is to assess the position of the organization and its business units. The Management asks every unit head to give a report of their current achievement and standing. Also, during performance appraisals, every business unit gives a report of what they have achieved so far.
- Where do you want to be: During Daily Stand Up, the second question answered by the team is “What do you plan to do today”. More like “what’s your target? Where do you want to be? What is your future state? In Strategy Analysis, this can be said to be the “Define Future State” stage. It is expected of every professional to set a target as to what they would like to achieve. Without a target, a goal or a future you are working towards, it becomes increasingly difficult to measure achievement or result. Again, this practice from Daily Stand Up should be imbibed by all professionals. At every point, always set a target, create a future state, baseline and re-baseline your future state. Ability to define your future state or your goal and objectives will influence the way a professional leads his/her, this target will shape almost every aspect of ones’ life. Given that, as it is, now imagine a life without a target or a goal. One good tool to validate how authentic your goal or target is, is to use the SMART checklist. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. But since we are talking scrum, I will make the “T” time-boxed) checklist.
During those retreats and strategy sessions, the management and business units then set a target, an objective or goal that the business will aim to achieve. Every other strategy or initiative of the organization will have to be aligned to the target. Now imagine an organization without a set target or goal.
- What are the risks in your way: Things don’t go as smoothly as we plan/want. There are always internal and external factors and forces to contend with along the journey to the future. There are always obstacles, inhibitors towards the attainment of a desired target or goal. Not identifying them, and adequately planning for them is like setting one’s self up for troubles (failure came to mind). This practice, from Daily Stand Up, is also applicable to real life scenarios. The objective of this practice is to identify the forces you need to contend with, along the journey to the future, identify what you would need, and how you would manage them. More like what Project Managers and Business Analysts do in Risk Management.
As professionals, we should make this practice and lessons from Daily Stand Up a way of life towards attaining our goals. We should do this periodically (daily, just like we do in Scrum, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually). Anyhow, just do it and see you on the part to achieving your desired future state.