Standups

Most teams that i have worked with have a standup every day in the morning. One issue each team has faced is what time to have the standup?  I have seen teams that  have standups as early as  8.30 AM to teams that have it as late as 11 AM. Generally speaking teams with earlier standups have lesser attendence than the later standups, This obviously is empirical, and it would be interesting to actually do this survey in teams with different standup times. I personally prefer later stand ups, that provides me the chance to turn up for a standup, that i would otherwise miss.

Typically people want it to be the first thing in the morning because it sets the tempo for the day. I disagree whole heartedly with this approach. I think that people are either morning people or evening people. And  starting early in the morning is highly overrated. It comes from cultural preferences that have drilled into our brains that mornings are productive and evenings are less so.( Same lines as how people think being Right handed is better than Left Handed). Teams should pick their time by past experiences and individual preferences rather than being dogmatic about the timing based on some baseless beliefs.

I have one other issue with standups, this is something i have seen spread recently, being late to a standup gets you a monetary punishment. I have a lot of issues with the ways standups are conducted, but the one i violently detest is monetary punishment. On my project we pay 100/- for coming late to the standup.

It immediately reminded me of the example from Predictably Irrational, where the author talks about the  Kids’ Creche which imposed fines on parents that came late. This experiment is well known, there were a couple of things i did not know about, and the author goes on to explain in a much better way than i could ever do, But i will give it a shot…

The story goes on something like, a kids creche was trying to make parents come in time to pick their kids, they figured that imposing a fine would make them puntual. On the contrary the number of people coming on time dropped. What was interesting was when the fine was removed again, the number of people coming late stayed almost the same. Dan Ariely explains it as the transition from Social Norms to Market Norms. The former is  based on friendly requests and where money is not required, stuff like asking your friend to pick up dinner for you. The latter on the other hand involves money transaction such as paying for food at the supermarket. The author posits rightly that using money is an expensive and ineffective way of motivating people. Instead relying on social norms, like having a conversation with errant person would be a lot more effective in dealing with this sort of situation.

As soon as we have turned the stand up  into a market norm, we are doomed, it will definitely bring less people into the stand up (which means less information sharing), because we put a monetary value to it. And people can payoff not coming to stand up in time. Instead, PM’s skirt the real issue by applying a fine rather than having the right conversation.

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9 responses to “Standups

  1. time for a shot-chat? 😉

  2. Paying for lateness to the standup has backfired before. We used it to get the PO to come on time, and he simply dropped $50 in the bucket and said he was covered for a month. We then solved this problem by doubling the fine for consecutive days. Problem solved very quickly.

    The intent is that the team can’t function like a team unless it works as one. If a resource isn’t on time, then the 10 minute meeting doubles in length (by repeating conversation) or that resource starts becoming marginalized. Both are unacceptable. Having said that, I agree with your mentality and have only used that fee option as a last resort to send a message to one or two people on the team that everyone else has given up with.

  3. On the note of time… I again fall back to it being a whole team. Whatever time the team votes on, is the right time. The outliers need to adjust to be part of the team. If the manager is the outlier and wants a time good for him… tough… adjust.

    Retrospectives are a good way to adjust this over time, standing meeting times are a valid topic for retrospectives.

  4. “And starting early in the morning is highly overrated. It comes from cultural preferences that have drilled into our brains that mornings are productive and evenings are less so.( Same lines as how people think being Right handed is better than Left Handed).”

    I’d like to see a reference for this. Since it is commonly accepted behavior, contradicting requires some proof.

    I actually prefer afternoon standups for the above reason. I’m productive in the morning, so I’d rather have meetings in the afternoon.

    • Honestly i don’t really know, I have no real proof for it. I know a lot of people, and myself have a big problem working well in the morning. A healthy dose of coffee helps me get going, otherwise i feel sluggish. On the other hand evenings i a lot more productive and generally have lesser distractions. I’ll try to dig up something on Google if there is some research around that.

  5. sreeix: “I’ll try to dig up something on Google”

    try “sleep disorder” and follow the the trail from there 🙂
    There’s a surprising amount of research done nowadays on sleep and the when and how of that. Both on the side from AD/HD (which seems to be rampant in people working with computers) and things like Narcolepsy.

    However…

    Regardles of sleeping habits I’m always of the opinion that fining behaviour is too easy a way out. It doesn’t solve the problem, namely that either some people DO find little value in the input exchange and/or the schedule isn’t right for some people, for whatever reason.
    The first is a structural problem with a person within a group/company so that should not be adressed at scrum level (IMO). The second is a red flag signaling there’s a gap in the communicaiton somewhere. I mean, shouldn’t all these parts within Agile be a shared responsability? Then this should surely be the case with meetings, and thus scrums. Anyone trying to impose their perceived “perfect time” on the team as a whole is breaking that circle of responsability, breaking that principle of “self-regulating”..

    Note that I’m NOT saying fining won’t work, it’s just not a solution to the problem, not in the long run anyhow.

    In Other Words: Just fire the damn cretin and be done with it 😉

    • I did follow a very interesting trail about sleep disorder, thanks for the tip.
      I liked the value of self organization you mention. The standup times should move to a time that is most appropriate to all the people on the team, or most of the people on the team.

  6. I believe that the content of the standup and the dynamics itself is quite important. I also believe that the team should together decide what time a standup should be.

    If standups are more informative, then by missing out on the standup, people miss out on some useful information first hand. Follow it up with a story signup for pairs, and if someone comes late , they do not get a choice for the story they work on today.

    You do not need a monetary penalty If you agree to a time as a team, then you gotta keep up with it. If as a team you cant come to this simple agreement, then either the team is huge and chaotic, or there is some other problem !

  7. I to do not believe in the monetary punishment approach anymore. Whenever I am running late I find myself slowing down saying to myself “It’s only a dollar” which ends up making me later than I ever would have been. Also aren’t there legal / HR concerns forcing your employee’s to pay a dollar for being late?

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