The cake was awesome. As soon as the cake cutting got over, Mathew and Sunil gave me signal to continue the discussion. I realized that they are very serious and curious!
Sunil started the conversation: “Your perspective about “Agile Manifesto” is interesting, I like it. But, it is all good in theory, very difficult to apply practically! We are literally struggling because of “Agile”.”
I replied, “Let me understand more about how you struggle. I don’t think I can solve your problems but of course, I can share my perspective about those challenges. I hope we both have an opportunity to learn here. I can completely relate to what you said. I have worked in many organizations and also in touch with lot of agile coaches. I have observed that many organizations go “Fragile” when they try “to do Agile”. Please share about what are you struggling with!”
He didn’t allow me to complete, “For example, our Agile coach says that “if you don’t do standup meeting every day for 15 minutes you are not agile!” Little background about our team. Ours is a distributed team and we have people from 3 time zones. It is very difficult for me to find a common working hour. One location will always end up attending standup meeting either very early in the morning or late in the evening/night. People simply can’t stay focused; they will be either driving or commuting or about to go to bed or getting up from bed. Everyone waste their time. On top of everything, I end up enforcing these rules to the team as a project manager. The truth is that, I don’t believe in this practice!”
I said, “Fantastic example. Let’s talk about this. There are two part to your challenge,
- The standup meeting is not working for your team and you don’t see any value doing that.
- You end up enforcing something which you don’t believe in!
Let’s not mix these two. We will start with the first item, “Standup meeting”.
The challenge I see is that, no one is looking at the intent of this. Sadly your agile coach is also not trying to show the value of this.
Do you know why we do standup meeting?”
Sunil replied, “It is a meeting to discuss the status of the tasks and stories. We also talk about upcoming items and our progress. We use this meeting to assign work to suitable people as well”
I looked at Mathew. He said, “For us it is mainly for reporting. As a manager if I attend the standup meeting of my teams, I will get to know what is happening in the project. I will get everyone together at the same time, it is a great advantage. I can clarity on work progress as well as give them new work if there is any change required. I like this meeting.”
I asked another question. “Do you think your team understand why they are doing it?”
For that question both of them said, “No”. Mathew added, “No one asked at least.”
“Interesting”, I continued. “We need to make the team understand why we are doing it and the value of this. The intent is more important than the content. The intent of standup meeting is to share information among people who has committed this work to the Product Owner. Each of them has a stake in the commitment and they really care about it. So they get together daily once to examine couple of things, such as, understand the progress, how can they help each other, any impediments affecting their commitment, is there a possibility of better collaboration, etc.. If there is anything alarming they discuss that and inform the product owner.
On a daily basis team members learn from each other, support each other. This will enable better learning in the team, better collaboration, and a sense of togetherness, teamwork, a common purpose and vision. This is one of the opportunity for the team to exhibit collective ownership with high level of commitment.
If you think the team is not comfortable with the meeting the way you do it now, ask them find an alternative to meet the intent. As long as the intent is met, don’t bother much about other things. Keep it Agile and flexible.”
Mathew stepped in, “Ebin, are you saying that if don’t do standup meeting 15 minutes every day, we can still be “Agile”?”
I replied, “Yes Mathew. Remember, the idea is to Be Agile not to Do Agile. Always keep in mind that, intent is more important than the content. You make the team understand the intent of the ceremony, in this example, standup meeting. Let them get a perspective of “Why” we are doing it. Give them opportunity to work on the intent and empower them to come out with interesting way to meet the intent. That’s when, you, and the team start believing in what you are doing.
I suggest you to watch this TED talk by Simon Sinek,
“Guys, join us for lunch.” Rakesh came and asked us to join for lunch.