Using Agile software development methodologies such as Scrum to manage projects can help ISVs deliver quality products on time. Scrum brings structure to Agile that appeals to many ISVs—it clearly defines roles and responsibilities, holds team members accountable, and includes a protocol for eliminating roadblocks. In addition, Scrum divides large, complex projects into “sprints” during which team members focus on specific tasks and objectives. Between sprints, scrum teams gather for brief, stand-up meetings, facilitated by a scrum master, to touch base on progress and plan next steps.
It sounds reasonable, so why do some developers dread scrum meetings? Here are some tips for how to conduct stand-up meetings your team may even buy into.
1. Stand up
It may seem obvious, but a stand-up scrum meeting is intended to be conducted with participants standing up. It helps to keep the meeting short and the team focused. If your team is in the habit of sitting during scrum meetings, remove chairs from the meeting place.
2. Keep It To the Point
Scrum meetings require that each team member answer three questions:
What did you do?
What are you going to do?
What’s holding you back?
Responses should apply to everyone on the team. If an issue comes up that is better handled by just a few team members, they need to address it at another time. Scrum masters need to be brave enough to stop a discussion that’s not on the focused agenda and keep everyone on track.
3. Deal with Impediments
In reference to that third question, when a team member mentions an impediment, resolve it. It doesn’t mean you can’t direct the team member to remove their own impediments when appropriate, but you should take all impediments seriously. It won’t take long for team members to realize that when they mention a roadblock and nothing is done to remove it, it’s probably not even worth bringing up.
4. Hold Meetings at the Right Time
Are you holding daily meetings just for the sake of holding daily meetings? It may be time to rethink meeting frequency. Scrum meetings should be scheduled regularly to keep team members accountable, but it may not be necessary for your team to meet every day. Also, consider the time of day you are planning meetings. Choose a time where all team members can attend, but when it’s least disruptive, such as first thing in the morning or around lunch. Meetings are supposed to encourage productivity—not interfere with it.
5. Don’t Be a Manager
The Agile philosophy empowers teams to self-manage, rather than report to a manager who assigns tasks. If your ISV’s scrum meetings have deteriorated to the point where the scrum master running the show and giving out assignments, it’s time for a reset.
The Scrum Culture
To make stand-up scrum meetings work—or the entire Scrum process, for that matter—you first need to develop the right company culture. Scrum teams need to be empowered to make decisions, and sometimes that includes taking risks and letting people learn from their mistakes. It’s also important to encourage collaboration and keep the lines of communication open throughout the project, making information accessible. Make sure the team understands the “why” behind the project to motivate them and keep them focused. Also, keep them informed when the client offers feedback so they can respond more positively and effectively to change requests.
Your ISV needs to fully embrace Scrum to get the maximum benefits from it. And when it’s working as it should, your team will see scrum meetings as less of a disruption and more of a link to successfully completing a project.