Your daily call is not and should not be a status update meeting. Trust me when I say that if the purpose of your calls is to get a status report, you run the risk of drastically impacting your improvement initiative!

Back in the day, it was almost traditional to spend our daily calls asking all the people in the team what they did yesterday and what they’re doing today.

Fortunately, the agile world turned over a new page and moved the focus from managing the workers to managing the work itself.

However, recently, we’ve seen a new trend start evolving, which pretty much reverts us right back to our old bad behavior.

What I’m observing over and over again is that, during their daily calls, teams go through all the work items on the board and report their status.

So what’s the problem with this approach? Let’s dig deeper here.

Is a Status Update Appropriate in the First Place?

Assuming everyone on the team is working on something, which is usually the case, what is essentially happening here is that you’re asking each and every person in the team what they are currently doing.

Now, the focus has moved back to managing people, and it’s being taken away from understanding the problems that are hindering your performance.

When we perceive our daily call as a status update meeting and ask people, what’s the status of their work every day, the interfering spark of micromanagement starts to build. Slowly, but surely.

The team’s engagement and motivation levels go down and with it, the daily call starts to feel like another thing that’s distracting people from doing their work.

So, you should ask yourself, “Is a status update appropriate in the first place?”.

And that’s not all. Your meetings are probably one of the most expensive overhead costs within your organization.

Imagine, you manage a team of 10 people and they have about 15 work items in progress. With this setup, the call would usually take about 30 minutes to go through each of them and have everyone give their update. This is a total of 5 hours, which could otherwise be spent delivering results. And that’s only if you moderate the meeting well, usually, it takes even longer.

So, does it really make sense to spend everyone’s time reporting their status?

How to Give a Status Update in a Meeting: You Don’t.

Now, you might be wondering, “Alright, Sonya, but if the team doesn’t give an update in our daily calls, how do we know the status of our project?”.

This is exactly what your board is about. The sole purpose of your board is to provide an overview of the status of the work at any one time. As such, your Kanban board should be the single source of truth and it should represent reality.

All the work the team is doing should be visualized on the board. Your decisions affect your predictability, so you have to ensure you make informed ones.

The work items need to be in their actual states; if you have to suspend the work, the cards should be marked as blocked; the urgent items need to have their own class of service so the team knows how to handle them on their own.

If you observe that your board is not up to date, open up the question to the team, emphasizing the importance of visualizing the work properly.

That’s how you cut out the time that everyone spends explaining what they are currently doing. This is the first step to making your daily meetings streamlined and effective.

How to Turn Your Daily (Status Update) Meetings into Outcome-Driven Events

Your daily meeting is not a status update meeting. The goal of your daily meeting is to navigate the flow of work.

What does this mean? It means that you only talk about the items that are prevented from moving further in the workflow.

Let’s look at an example.

This is the Aging Chart of a development team of 3 people. The colored zones in the chart are called health zones and they represent how much time your previous tasks have taken to move through each process state.

The red zone represents the time 95% of your completed work items needed to move to the next step.

Status update meeting: Aging Chart

For this team, the only focus of the daily meeting is discussing the two items above, which have taken much longer than 95% of everything else that has been finished so far. And the conversation should really be about: “Is there anything we, as a team, can do to enable them to move further?”.

Additionally, talk about the expedites in the system and go through any blocked work that is aging in the process. Identify what’s causing the work to get stuck and take action. The outcome of the meeting must be to come up with a concise action plan.

For example, if a work item is blocked, what needs to happen to unblock it, and who is accountable for that action? If there is aging work waiting to be handled, who will start working on it?

Write down a few bullet points, keep it to a maximum of three so you can keep the entire team focused on the most pressing issues that are slowing you down.

The next day, start the meeting by following up with the action plan. Then, repeat the process.

3 PRINCIPLES TO EFFECTIVE DAILY STANDUP MEETINGS

Explore the guidelines that will keep your daily meetings streamlined, effective, and focused on delivering results.

This approach will turn your daily status update meetings into outcome-driven actionable calls that enable you to make progress and see the results of your improvement efforts. It turns these calls into a continuous improvement mechanism.

And here is your action item: Introduce the Aging Chart to your daily meetings and start making reasonable conversations as early as tomorrow morning.

Stop perceiving your daily calls as status reports. Keep them streamlined and effective and, if it turns out that all the work items are moving through your process smoothly and there are no impediments along the way, then it’s a good time to close the discussion and let everyone go.

If you’re willing to grow self–managed teams and build sustainable delivery workflows, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our Sustainable Predictability program.

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