As engineers, we want to focus on delivering value to customers. We noticed that a lot of the projects we work on are following agile processes, but in a format that misses the mark. That’s why we started experimenting with how we could bring back the right focus. I’ll describe one of the most straightforward changes we found that had the most significant impact.

One of the Agile processes that is widely spread throughout the software engineering community is the “stand-up” also known as the “daily scrum meeting” or the “daily.” What we regularly see in these stand-ups is that they do not focus on the goal of delivering value to the customer. In most cases, they are purely used as status updates. What we hear in this meeting is “what did we do yesterday” and “what are we working on now“. These questions provide useful information to keep an overview of what everyone is working on but are not focused on the delivery of the software.

That is why we experimented with different formats trying to orient the team more towards delivery. What we did was move status updates out of the stand-up meeting and replace it with these two questions:

  • What do we want to deliver today?
  • What is stopping us from doing that?

By asking these two questions, the team shifted towards delivering a common goal together. They also made problems explicit and tackled them immediately instead of procrastinating on the tasks that could provide the most value just because other issues blocked them.

Removing the status updates from the stand-up gave the feeling to some people in and outside the team that they were less aware of what each engineer was working on. We already had this information available in our issue tracker, but it was not easy for everyone to derive what they needed. That’s why we decided to move all our status updates to chat.

We use the `/me` command in Slack to communicate whenever we start on something new or are looking for help on a ticket in our team channel. This way, everyone is up to date about who is working on what and where support could be necessary. It also helps to think critically about specific tasks, if they work towards the goal you’ve set for the day. We first thought of doing these status updates by letting the JIRA-slack integration post them in the channel; however, typing the updates themselves makes it more personal and helps to start discussions.

Several teams that we work with already use this technique, with some minor variations. The results seem positive for all of them, so if you have problems with orienting a team towards delivering value to the customers, this could be a useful arrow in your quiver.