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Stand-ups don’t steal your time!

by Hari Baran

Stand-ups are crucial to any software development team working with lean software development methodologies, regardless of which flavour they choose. Preferably done at the beginning on the day, it is a ritual that gathers the key team members together to improve the effectiveness of the day and focus the team on delivery.

Unfortunately, it is still very common to see the value of the stand-ups questioned, especially when delivery teams are under the pump.

Complaints vary:

“I wish I could do some real work in the time I spend in stand-ups.”

“I don’t care what the team does; I have my isolated work to do.”

“I can’t wake up in the mornings.”

One widely-held misconception is that stand-ups originated in the software industry - this is, of course, not true. Most of the Lean and Agile software development rituals weren't created from scratch, but were adapted from other management and production systems such as the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Kaizen.

Obeya, meaning "big room" in Japanese, is a component of the Toyota Production System and Toyota still follows the practice. The rationale behind Obeya is similar to stand-ups: instead of relying on memos and emails for communication, gather everybody in one place and speed up the decision-making by creating multiple communication channels.

The science behind this is nicely explained by Pete Abilla:

“..Again, basic combinatorics teaches us that as the number of agents involved in a process increases, the communication links between those agents increases exponentially, thus allowing for a potentially Nx communication-link breakdown. To manage that, scheduled but quick Obeya meetings can help, as well as as-needed informal meetings between individuals and groups...”

As your team grows, the number of the communication links between team members increases exponentially. With stand-ups, you expose those links by gathering the team in one place and facilitate immediate face-to-face human contact. Team members are enabled to broadcast crucial information that may impact their colleagues, and factoring in the information shared, they can make decisions on the spot or in the 'huddle' after the stand-up.

By creating such an information flow and enabling the team to make fast, informed decisions, stand-ups don't steal your time. On the contrary, by reducing the number of the meetings, stand-ups free up your time so that you can focus on value-added tasks during the day.

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