Agile Daily Standup
In my many years of project management training, I often joke that our discussion about project tracking and reporting isn’t going to take long because I don’t like it. Even so, I have always advocated for regular, daily tracking to meet the reporting needs of stakeholders.
Students are often put off by this. For many, it’s onerous to think about taking time daily to track project work. In fact, the reaction to this was so negative from students who work in traditional project environments, that for a time I tempered my recommendation and suggested that team members should simply track more frequently than the PM who has to pull the information together for reporting.
But I eventually got back to the daily tracking suggestion, and my experience on a recent project illuminated the many benefits of the practice. Taking a page from the agile playbook regarding tracking and reporting enhances the value even more.
On our team, for example, we held a “daily standup” meeting in which we covered the three questions included in the daily scrum: What have you completed since yesterday? What do you plan to cover tomorrow? What obstacles are you facing?
Whether tracking specifically on those three questions or some version of them, a daily 15-minute standup was helpful in ways predictable and surprising. In retrospect, it was a key contributor to the success of our project. Specifically, there were three benefits directly attributable to our daily standup.
First, it made the tracking and reporting of work so much easier. Like anything, the more you do it, the easier it is. Less frequent updating and reporting feels burdensome and labor-intensive. Doing it daily feels like tracking/reporting lite. By its very nature, it is painless to fold this into your project practice.
Second, daily standups make reporting more accurate. As I tell my students, “If you haven’t experienced it yet, your day is coming: Sometimes I can’t remember what I did four hours ago, much less 4 days ago!” When doing scrum, the daily standup is supported by other scrum ceremonies and artifacts, e.g., sprint planning, product backlog, etc. But even if you are working more on being agile than doing agile, a daily standup yields considerably better information than does a recollection of a week’s worth of work.
Thirdly, and most significantly, it was the daily standup that ended up being a key trust builder on our project. When issues accumulate over the week and then get reported all at once, they often end up seeming bigger because they’ve had time to fester and develop into bigger issues. It’s often harder to provide the context because much may have transpired since the issue first occurred.
Reporting daily in a 15-minute meeting ensures that issues are shared almost as they happened so that problems get nipped in the proverbial bud. Again, when doing agile project management, the perspective around change is really the bigger context, specifically the perception that changes are not bad but are, indeed, welcome. Still, for project teams that are trying to be a little more agile and that may not be using a strictly agile approach, per se, the incorporation of a daily standup goes a long way toward addressing the frustration and sometimes ensuing drama around perceived surprises. However agile you are, a daily communication around tracking and reporting will go a long way toward building the relationships upon which your project depends.
So whether you are practicing agile for product development, or just looking for ways to infuse a little agility into your project practice in general, try a “daily standup.” Do it standing or sitting, face-to-face or virtually, if necessary. But keep it short, time-boxed, and use the 3 questions described above to take your tracking and reporting up a notch. See if it doesn’t make your project tracking and reporting easier and more accurate. And most importantly, see if it doesn’t build trust.