The Big Stand-up

Forty people in a meeting? Are you mad?

No. At least, not in a relevant sense.

But it’ll take half an hour!

There are some tricks that you can use to keep the stand-up short.

  • Rule 1: Only say things which the whole team needs to hear.
  • Rule 2: Do not get into discussions about these things.
  • Rule 3: Each participant has the right, but not the obligation, to speak.
  • Rule 4: Split into, say, 3 smaller teams, or streams, for more focused standups. These can (should?) be held immediately after the big stand-up.

Why not just get the leaders of the teams together, like a Scrum-of-scrums?

  • It makes the team feel like a team, rather than 3 sets of people who don’t know each other.
  • It gives even the least important devs a chance to speak
  • and to realise that the input of even the least important dev may be crucial to project delivery.
  • It’s possible to get feedback about the feelings of people for the project from the number of smiley, fidgety, awake, bored, dejected or exhausted-looking people in the room.
  • It makes everyone turn up at the same time, which – if the standup takes less than 2 minutes, as it should – means they’re on time for the team standups too.
  • People who get a chance to make eye-contact with people who are not on their stream are more likely to communicate with those people. That helps prevent the people who might otherwise attend a scrum of scrums from becoming communication bottlenecks.

You can always have a scrum-of-scrums as well.

How can I keep my 40-person stand-up short?

  • Pass a token (we use a beanie-baby zebra) around the ring of people. Anyone can raise their hand to ask for the token, if they have forgotten to say something or have a response.
    • People don’t stand around wondering if it’s their turn to speak.
    • When the token has gone around the ring once, unless anyone asks for it back, the stand-up is over.
    • It feels uncomfortable to throw the token back and forth between two people, so anything other than a quick “I’d like to talk about that later” is thus discouraged.
    • People smile as they watch the comical stuffed toy being thrown around between otherwise mostly sensible adults. Smiling is good for you.
    • The weight of responsibility in holding the toy is felt more keenly than any effect of gravity on its mass. This encourages participants to keep it short.
  • Remind participants of the rules if it seems as if they’ve forgotten.
  • Don’t wait for people to turn up! If you’ve said you’re running it at 3pm, run it at 3pm. The slackers will get the drift.

How do you find 40 people willing to participate in such a fiendish scheme?

  1. Chocolate
  2. Coffee.
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