November 1, 2013
Not a daily status meeting - a daily standup!
Communication overkill and budget overruns. That was the first thought that came to my mind when I first began managing using the agile approach to project management. I didn’t think it was possible to have any more meetings to discuss a project, which would surely blow the budget. As I continued to use this methodology though, I realized these meetings were actually saving the budget in many ways. With the agile methodology, you have three core meetings that occur in every sprint cycle. First, there is the sprint planning meeting. These sessions usually last a couple of hours, and they drive the activities for the upcoming 3-week sprint cycle. In the planning call, the team comes together and prioritizes the user stories that will be delivered based on dependencies and business needs. The second meeting is the sprint review. This is your tried and true status meeting with a little twist. Accomplishments from the previous sprint are discussed and sometimes even demonstrated. These meetings also provide an appropriate forum to discuss the earned value and actual costs with the project stakeholders. The third meeting is the retrospective—basically a self-review that the team holds to identify areas of improvement for the next sprint. These meetings are all fine and good – but a daily standup? This is where I initially had a problem. What is a daily standup? Well, it’s not a status meeting, which was my concern. Status meetings are more appropriately held weekly or even bi-weekly. With the stand up, the project team meets every day for 15 minutes or less to discuss what each person accomplished since the previous call, what they plan on doing until the next meeting, and advising if there is anything blocking them from completing these scheduled tasks. It’s the project manager’s job to help remove these blocks to keep momentum going on the project. If there were no standups, there would be less visibility into each team member’s impediments. Of course, with less visibility into the issues, eventually the schedule will be impacted. The team is then forced to either extend the project schedule or crash the project with more resources to keep on track – both options will drive costs up. It’s important to have these daily standup calls to not only keep visibility to the issues, but keep momentum on the project, and most importantly, hold each team member accountable for their activities. It becomes apparent very quickly when a team member isn’t delivering on a consistent basis. The standup helps address that head on, keeping the project on schedule, and ultimately within budget. I’ve jumped in to manage many projects that were mid-deployment and helped salvage the project using this approach. Hopefully, you have not found yourself in the middle of a project spiraling out of control, but using agile project management can get you back on track if that’s the case. You’ll be happy to see how the communication techniques will save a floundering project and a project budget. Do you have the same concerns I had when I first started using this methodology? Rest assured, the meetings might feel like overkill, but it will save the project in the long run.
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