1) Issues – Anything that was reported as a blocker, impediment, or issue to making progress needs removal or avoidance. Agile employs a “constraints view” of production systems similar to Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints where the role of the manager is to remove impediments from the process. The impediments or blocker issues reported at stand-up should become the project managers To-Do list to ensure their resolution.
2) Velocities Deviations – We know the task estimates so when a 2 day task has taken 4 days and is still going with no end in sight, it is time to investigate. If there is time in the stand-up it might be appropriate to ask if there are any problems? Alternatively it might be better to follow up afterwards and determine the issue. Was it a poor estimate, a wicked problem, or sign that perhaps someone else should take a look? In isolation these occurrences are common; however repeating delays in work areas or with team members might be signs of deeper issues. Likewise overly high velocity (all the 4 day tasks being burned through in a day each) might be signs that we can re-evaluate our iteration goals. Just make sure “done” really is “done” and the tasks are all passing QA and user acceptance before booking the end of project party a month early.
3) Emotions – Consider what was said and what perhaps was not said. Was anyone upset or angry, were there tensions that need to be understood, a bubbly person abnormally quiet? All might be signs that a quick chat could be in order. These are impediments to progress just as much as reported problems. Some we may not be able to solve, but perhaps just enquiring and listening to what they have to say is a useful step towards resolution itself. (Thus allowing the worker bee to then produce more code... Buwahah!)
4) Questions – Perhaps we did not fully understand some progress or issue discussed at the stand-up. If a quick clarification during the meeting did not help then likely some follow up questions are required. (I used to be a developer and understood technical things, now I sometimes have to explain that I am a project manager and you have to speak slowly to me. If that still does not work I explain that I am actually a PMP certified project manager and so you will have to speak really s-l-o-w-l-y). We cannot fix what we cannot understand and while many things remain the domain of the technical team, when escalation and impediment removal is required (i.e. my job) I need to fully comprehend the issue so I can best resolve it.
5) Recognitions – All work and no play makes for a dull week, month, or project. Look for opportunities for some kind of recognition, event or milestone to celebrate. We want to maintain motivation so people have the energy to blast through obstacles not run out of steam at the first hurdle. A great way to do this is to frequently recognize progress and contributions. This can be a simple thank-you explaining what people did that was useful and how it helped the project, or a team lunch, or gift. These events can make all the difference between a death march and rapid team progress.
Again these are my Top 5 today, on a different day I may include different things like the skills fit for selected tasks, resource load balancing, or if we are mitigating the remaining project risks, but these are currently not as high priorities on my team. What about you? Please share what you consider following stand-up?