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The Ultimate Guide To Agile Working & Why Agility Really Matters

06. Daily Stand-up Meeting Questions, Agenda & Formats

Agile Meetings & Agendas

The ability to have the ‘right conversations’ at the ‘right time’ is at the heart of all high performing agile teams. Common meeting types and cadences include the daily stand-up meeting and the weekly or bi-weekly planning meeting.

Because these meetings are so important to agile teams, a number of systems, processes and tools have been developed to support and facilitate these conversations, with ZOKRI falling into this category.

That does not mean technology is always needed. Some teams still have the luxury of being able to be in the same timezone and in the same building. Here office walls, whiteboards and post-it notes have proven themselves to be a great way to meetings to share progress, plans, ideas, problems and whatever else needs to be on the agenda will optimize delivery and learnings.

However, distributed teams, flexible and remote working often means that this is not possible so other effective ways of communicating and aligning have been developed that follow tried and tested cadences and formats.

The goal for all agile meetings is to ensure a high return on time invested (ROTI) in meeting time, with irrelevant and ineffective meetings being stopped.

Agile meetings, agendas and cadences

There are a number of common meeting types and cadences used by agile teams with typical agendas varying between them. The common types of meetings are:

  • Daily stand-ups
  • Weekly or bi-weekly team planning meetings e.g. sprint planning
  • Monthly OKR reviews
  • Quarterly OKR retrospective and planning meetings

Here we will explore each meeting type and share some tips and techniques that help them support a healthy high performing team culture and goal achievement.

 

The daily stand-up

The point of a stand-up meeting, whether you are in the same room, on a video call, or working asynchronously is to synchronise work and remove any barriers.

A common and simple daily-stand-up agenda is:

  • What did I do yesterday
  • What will I do today?
  • What’s in my way?

But there are no rules and the agenda should be made to work for the team. Common additions being:

  • Any new to-do’s / tickets?
  • Any new customer / prospect issues?

 

Daily stand-up etiquette

Best time of day

Not everyone starts their day at the same time, they may not even be in the same time-zone. Rather than tell people when the meeting is, perhaps ask teams when the stand-up should be.

Talk to the team

However you are meeting, in person or on a video call, it is important for answers and replies to be directed to the whole team, not an individual manager. If you are a manager and you find yourself holding court with the conversation being focused on you try to redirect and guide conversations back to the group.

Mix it up

Agile teams often use speaking tokens. Speaking tokens are objects that can be passed around from person to person, with the person holding the token choosing who is next to talk. The great thing about this is no single person is in control, and not knowing who is getting the token next keeps everyone focused and alert.

Stakeholders, like project managers, are there to capture any issues that come up. That doesn’t mean they stay silent, they are and should feel like welcome participants and part of the team. Other roles like Product Owners should also share what they are working as this can provide great insight into upcoming work.

Issue capture

When issues that are holding people back come up it is often best to capture them and address them together at the end of the stand-up. This is because important relevant information might come out as the meeting progresses. To help, as issues come-up write them on a whiteboard or if you’re using ZOKRI as notes, as these will be summarised at the end. Issues can also be assigned in ZOKRI and marked as resolved when completed.

If there are dependencies that are holding people back they should also be captured and assigned for follow-up. These can then be taken through to the next meeting.

 

Daily stand-up issues

Late arrivals

If there are late arrivals, information should not get repeated – it is not OK to be late. Perhaps even create a small penalty e.g. gift to charity, Friday drinks fund … Repeat offenders need to explain what the issues ‘really’ are. Hopefully it can be solved. Knowing how being late impacts the team will also help.

If late arrivals becomes a big issue you can create a very visible board where people add their names when late so it can be recorded. Visible and recorded lateness often self-corrects.

Not working on planned tasks

Workboards and the stand-ups need to reflect the current reality. Tasks can and should be added and removed as more is learned about what needs to be done. If you find that a team member is being pulled onto other projects or is needed to support related tasks, and this poses a threat to planned work, let appropriate stakeholders know.

Stand-up resistance

If someone or even multiple people don’t want the stand-ups, find out why. Perhaps they are not getting work done and the stand-up exposes this? There could be an even bigger issue if everyone doesn’t want them. Perhaps they do not feel they are a good return on time invested (ROTI). So ask the questions; ‘what is it that is not working for you?’ and ‘what would make stand-ups work for you?’

Overruns

If stand-ups are regularly overrunning:

  • Leave discussion until the end
  • Keep people focused on a currently relevant progress narrative not micro task listings

Hijacking

Whilst everyone is together let’s talk about “…” If this happens just let the hijacker know how important it is to keep the meetings short and focused, and that other forums and people might be a better place.

 

Weekly or bi-weekly agile meeting

Planning for the next week or two weeks is another common agile meeting cadence. A common agenda or series of inputs if you are capturing these in OKR software like ZOKRI are:

  • Last weeks priority progress
  • This week’s priorities / blockers / dependencies
  • Wins – often added to ZOKRI at the end of the week
  • OKR progress
  • Team KPIs / Health Metrics

The addition of wins to the agenda is an opportunity to share good news with the team or even the whole company. OKR discussions allow everyone to keep a track of the goals that have been set and the measurable outcomes being targeted, and team KPIs allow everyone to keep an eye on metrics that will be supporting OKR achievement as well as the general health of the team.

Best practices for these are to:

  • Choose a day and time that works – Mondays are often best
  • Create and follow the agenda
  • Take turns to talk – like with stand-ups
  • Come prepared e.g. workboards are updated and OKR check-ins are done

ZOKRI has been designed to allow teams to share these inputs for meetings where teams are present in rooms and on video calls, and asynchronously.

Having a common place to see this information across teams also allows for people outside your own teams to see priorities, wins, OKRs and KPI progress. This makes work visible and makes requests for time and resources more sympathetic to what is being targeted already.