Beware Agile Zombies
richardknaster 060000XKSX Visits (4434)
Beware of Agile Zombies!
It's Halloween and your team has been working hard for the past 10 months developing software. If's very possible that some of your teams are turning into "Agile Zombies". In fact, I have witnessed this phenomena several times in the past few months and it's a very real issue. I did some research today and found that Agile Zombies were more prevalent than I thought. Here's what the AgileBoston chapter had to say:
One definition of a zombie is someone
"who acts or responds in a mechanical or apathetic way,
and appears as a reanimated
dead or a mindless human being". Agile Zombies seem to be alive,
but are not. This
Agile Zombie concept also applies to teams. An Agile Zombie team is “a
team that acts or responds in an
apathetic way.” and "appears dead." A
Zombie team is lifeless....it is DEAD to self-organization,
dead to group learning and dead to the
hyper-productive state. A Zombie team has no authority--
no “right to do
work”-- and thus has absolutely no self-determination
to make critical team decisions.
Your team might be a Zombie team if:
I believe that there are many reasons a team can go "Zombie" and after a lot of "soul searching" pun intended, I thought it would be good to focus on one area that I often see teams being zombies -- the Daily Standup. This is one of the most important collaboration and planning tools that an Agile team has, but is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and abused.
For some teams this meeting is just an annoying duty and as a result, the questions are answered without any passion. A common pattern that I see is the order in which questions are asked affects how much time the team spends answering them. The first question about what I did yesterday is answered in overly precise detail, while the second question is answered quite short and if the third question is answered at all this is only done by stating that there are currently no problems. So the biggest part of the meeting is spent talking about the past. The impediments, planning, collaboration and team bonding are simply ignored.
Below are the three questions asked in most Daily Stand-up Meetings, in this order:
1. What did you do yesterday?
The answer to this question doesn’t have to be a detailed list of all tasks you’ve done yesterday. It isn’t meant to find out who finished the most tasks and was the hardest working team member. In short, the point isn’t to report status to the Project Manager, Product Owner or a stakeholder. Instead the answers should only contain information that is beneficial for all team members and is important for the rest of the Iteration. In this way, the information is interesting and valuable for all team members, everybody listens and benefits from it.
2. What will you do today (or until next meeting)?
Often this question is answered with a simple “I’ll continue working on…”. This has nothing to do with a tactical approach. Every team member should be thinking about what’s the next step to support the team in reaching its Iteration goal. New Agile team members tend to think about their own tasks instead of thinking and working as a team. It isn’t important to start working on all tasks of the Iteration Backlog, but to work on the tasks together. At best, two team members are working on one task simultaneously by using techniques like pair programming. This is why the Daily Stand-up is also the perfect place to decide who will pair. The Daily Stand-up is a small planning meeting!
3. What is impeding my work?
Interestingly, this is the most important question but is asked last and often goes unanswered. In the end, all of the hidden problems pop-up in the Iteration Retrospective even though they could have been solved during the Iteration. But to be able to solve problems, the team must make them visible to one another. Sometimes team members are used to solving problems on their own and don't realize how the issue affects the whole team. These hidden problems and impediments are often the ones that cause a missed Iteration goal. Only if everybody knows about what is in their way can the team respond to impediments so they can reach their Iteration goal.
What are some of the Daily Meeting Zombie cures?
1. Ensure the team understands the goals of the Daily Standup meeting:
2. Change the order of the questions to match its importance:
3. Hold the meeting the first thing in the morning when people have the most energy. For geographically distributed teams, this may not work well and we will discuss how to handle this in a future blog about scaling agile.
4. Ensure that the team has a place to meet every day. Avoid going to a different room each day; this causes the team a lot fatigue. If you can't find a consistent place to meet everyday, be innovative, find those nooks and crannies in your offices where it would be possible (e.g. a hallway that is not frequently traveled, in front of the executive's office that stole your team's room, etc.).
5. Make the meeting fun. Bring new and interesting snacks to the meeting. If you have an international team, have team members bring snacks from their cultural background. Eating is a ritual that will bond the team. Think about your own family's culture around eating and how it caused a bond.
Don’t behave like an Agile zombie. The Daily Stand-up isn’t an annoying duty, but a way for the team to meet its Iteration goal.
Join the Conversation:
What are some of the Agile Zombie behaviors that you observe and what are some of the cures that you have used?