Improving your Agile Standup Meetings

Meetings and communication in general are essential aspects of any Agile process. The number of get-togethers probably depends on your organization’s choice of Agile framework, but some form of daily standup is likely. Making those standup meetings more valuable and efficient adds to the efficacy of any software development project.

Given that Agile is supposed to make software engineering faster, here is a unique idea for improving those Agile standup meetings. Consider this bit of insight to ensure your next development effort is completed on time and under budget.

Improv makes your Software Development Meetings more Valuable

In an article for SD Times, Madison Moore describes how improv – used in a fashion similar to a comedy troupe – offers the potential to make daily Agile meetings more rewarding. Wayde Stallmann, who works in the software development industry as an Agile coach, devised the practice to improve the productivity and collaboration level of meetings. Stallmann feels using these improv techniques during meetings – both standups and scaled retrospectives – enhances four vital Agile qualities: collaboration, trust, creativity, and communication.

Starting off each meeting with an improv activity lasting a few minutes helps get everyone’s attention focused on the task at hand. “In the first few minutes, everyone talks and has equal voice. No one dominates the game which sets the tone that no one dominates the meeting,” said Stallmann. Once again, the focus is on fostering collaboration among a team of equals.

Some of these gaming activities serve well to fire up the brain – useful for standups occurring first thing in the morning. The Alphabet Conversation is one such example. One person starts a conversion using a sentence beginning with the letter “A;” followed by the next person with “B,” and so on.

While some may feel activities like the Alphabet Conversation seem like a waste of time, Stallmann finds tangible value in the exercise. “We get into the aspect of how a team can solve a problem that no one individually can solve,” said Stallmann. He’s encountered skeptics throughout his coaching activities, but maintains everyone eventually sees the light after they try out the process.

Creating Agile Team Players

The most important benefit derived from improv activities at the beginning of meetings isn’t making software development faster; instead these efforts teach everyone on an Agile project how to be a better team player. Companies eventually see a benefit from what first seems like an unintuitive exercise. “When I was with AT&T as a Scrum Master, I had a team where we did a three-minute warmup game to start each standup, and we did this for two years straight. They did it for a year after I left the team, which I think is testament to the fact that it wasn’t because I was asking them to do it,” said Stallman.

If your team’s morning standups seem like wasteful drudgery, consider leveraging Stallman’s improv gaming techniques. If it works for AT&T, it just may make a difference for your development staff. Getting their minds focused on the gaming activity to start helps keep their attention during the rest of the meeting.

When you need additional insights on the software development process, keep coming back to the Betica Blog. As always, thanks for checking us out!

Scrum, Lean, Kanban – An Analysis of Agile Frameworks

As Agile continues to mature as a methodology – forged in the fires of real-world software development projects – a variety of Agile frameworks have emerged. Three of these – Lean, Kanban, and Scrum – are arguably the most popular framework examples in the industry. One of these “flavors” may work best for your team, depending on how it builds applications or the specific needs of a particular project.

So lets take a closer look at the top Agile frameworks to help your development organization make a decision on which one fits best. Good luck!

Is it Time to join the Scrum?

Project management pundit, Moira Alexander compared the three popular Agile frameworks for CIO Magazine. We’ll summarize her take on each of them, starting with Scrum, which is beginning to be used in other industries beyond the software development world. Scrum is highlighted by its predefined roles and processes – one example being that the project manager (or facilitator) is referred to as the Scrum Master.

Scrum’s major focus – essentially like Agile itself – is the faster delivery of high quality software. Since project teams are largely expected to be self-organizing, the Scrum Master serves more as a facilitator compared to a traditional project manager. Sprints tend to be more formal, as is the framework itself, which makes it suitable for organizations used to the Waterfall, but wanting to explore a flavor of Agile.

The timeframes of sprints are also more formally defined; lasting anywhere from two to four weeks. Time spent on daily meetings is limited to 15 minutes. Changes to requirements within a sprint are discouraged.

Go Lean for a Waste-free Process

The Lean Agile framework saw its genesis in the manufacturing industry as an attempt to minimize any wasted efforts on a project, while also offering a learning opportunity to the members of the project team. Lean strives for overall systemic improvements while preserving the integrity of the process.

In most cases, Lean demands an even more formalized process than Scrum, making it another Agile framework worthy of consideration for shops coming from more structured and organized methodologies. One exception is the lack of a specific timespan for each sprint. There is also additional flexibility regarding meetings and change requests – they happen when necessary.

Kanban offers the most Flexibility

A framework relying on visual workflows to explain and define the development process, Kanban also provides more flexibility than either Scrum or Lean. Developed in the supply chain world, many software development shops now make it part of how they write code. It focuses on completing the tasks within a project while always striving to improve the underlying processes.

Since Kanban teams are extremely self-organizing, a managerial role isn’t always necessary. There is also a high level of flexibility when it comes to project timelines, the scheduling of meetings, and change control. In short, whatever keeps the project moving forward and the process continuously improving is fair game.

This high level view of the most popular Agile frameworks offers a measure of insight on which one would work best at your shop. Be sure to consider the history and experience level of your development team in addition to your goals for the future.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional insights and ideas from the evolving world of software development. Thanks for reading!