Working in a Fortune 500 company can be exciting, rewarding and at times harrowing. I was lucky enough to to be a General Manager for a 3M Division in the mid-’80s…yes, I really am that old. 3M is known for innovation and finding the fastest path to profitability. Divisions were expected to produce quality products on time, and on budget. 3M was one of the first companies to champion the Quality Management Movement and made the Baldridge* criteria their corporate standard.
3M is Where I First Experienced
Fresh hires were flown into the Maplewood, Minnesota campus to learn the “3M Way”. Trainers stressed the importance of keeping all meetings short, to the point with actionable results as the takeaway. Meeting participants were expected to come prepared. To facilitate a productive meeting, a printed agenda, including pertinent questions, was distributed the previous afternoon. All meetings started on time and standing up — no chairs allowed, one donut per person and unlimited coffee. In my new boss’s words, “Listen, kid, these guys are salaried employees, they’d hang out all morning, this way, if their varicose veins don’t get them, their bladders will. Your job is to get them in, get the information shared as need, and get back to work.”
At the time I didn’t realize the “3M-Way” was really an adoption of an early Total Quality Management System described in a Harvard Business Review article, “The New, New Product Development Game.” Japanese business researchers, Takeuchi, and Nonaka, had posited an approach to commercial product development that would increase speed and flexibility. For reasons known only to themselves, they compared this approach to a fast-moving Rugby game where the team members work together to make the goal. They used a Rugby term, “SCRUM” to describe a quick start meeting to gain and maintain control of the play. By the early ’90s the SCRUM Framework had found a home in software development, and so had I.
Using the SCRUM Framework to Be a More Effective Communicator
The SCRUM Stand-up has evolved since the early ‘90s and sometimes the terms SCRUM and Agile Management used interchangeably. A better usage would be to think of SCRUM as the set of rules and processes used in the Agile management process.
The ScrumStand-up is still a structured morning meeting that helps set the work plan for the day. The daily stand-up is a commitment and coordination meeting for the entire team. Keeping the Scrum meeting strictly time-boxed to 15 minutes keeps the discussion brisk, but relevant. Team members are made aware of any project impediments, what code or process has been completed or what tasks are ready to be pulled from one team member’s to-do list and placed with someone else.
All members of the Project Scrum team should attend every meeting. If any member can not, a designated team member should deliver the missing individual’s report. The Scrum Master’s primary role at the daily meeting is to control the agenda and manage the length of the team members’ reports. The Stand-Up is not a problem-solving venue — it is a reporting and role assignment tool. Problem and issues identified in the Stand-up are handled by the relevant subgroup immediately after the meeting.
During the daily Scrum, each team member answers the following three questions:
- What have I accomplished since the last daily Scrum meeting?
- Did anything hold me back? If so, what.
- What do I plan to accomplish today or before the next daily Scrum meeting?
Ideally all team members meet face to face daily at the same time. Remote workers have become an integral part of our tech environment, so how do we accommodate team members who are working in different locations and in different time zones? Stand-Up team members may be ‘sitting’ in front of either a Zoom Meeting or Google hang-out camera, but the purpose is the same — the Scrum Master needs to gather and disseminate project staus information quickly and accurately. If team members are working in different locations and in different time zones, the meeting can be very inconvenient for some international team members. However, if all team members are located in the United States this approach is doable.
The success of every project depends on clear, concise communication. If you are the Scrum Master, Dev-team lead, or the Primary Customer Contact, you need to develop the knack of dispassionate delivery. Share facts, not opinions or emotions.
Getting the Most From Your Daily Stand-up
- Rule 1. It is called stand-up for a reason — participants remain standing.
- Rule 2. Start on time and keep it short.
- Rule 3. Stick to a 3-question agenda.
Basic Standup Meeting Agenda Checklist
(From ever SCRUM Management Textbook Ever Written)
Wins – what got accomplished last week
- Meeting milestones
- Deliverables ready for testing
- Approved deliverables
- Generated workable alternatives to blocks
- Receiving positive feedback
Issues – where we fell short
- Missed deliverables deadline
- Delayed team feedback
- poor communications
- Delay in scope
- Hanging scope
Priorities – what is getting done next week
- Presenting a deliverable
- Approaching the deadline
- Getting feedback
- Finishing revisions
Metrics – how is the project progressing
- Milestones complete
- Milestones outstanding
- Next milestone deadline
- Go-live deadline
- Any scope changes