Monday, November 19, 2007

Individual and Collective Responsibility and Standup Meetings

Although I believe that stand-up meetings can be a powerful tool, I think they often go astray: they turn into status meetings. Others have covered the patterns and anti-patterns of standup meetings before, but I'd like to delve into this one point in more detail.

When standup meetings turn into status meetings, I'm inclined to think the problem often traces back to a sense of where the responsibility lies: with the individual or with the team.

Individual Responsiblity
Does each member of the team think that he or she is responsible for a task and must let the rest of the team (or a subset of the team) know where he or she is at? That's a status meeting, and it stems from a sense of individual responsibility.

With this mindset, individual team members may feel as if he or she is personally late to bring a task to completion mid-iteration, that the tasks others are on is interesting, but basically unrelated to the task at hand, and that a standup meeting is simply a way of keeping in touch with the rest of the team, and more importantly, making sure that some "important" members of the team know what's going on. The danger here is that each individual focuses on their task to the exclusion of the team's goals.

Collective Responsibility
What you should be striving for is a sense of collective responsibility. The team, as a whole, should understand where they're trying to go, what's important and what isn't, whose tasks may be on the critical path, and what those tasks mean. Without this collective responsibility, a team will often not act like a team, but rather like a collection of individuals.

When a team member on an important task is stymied, a team with a sense of collective responsibility will react naturally to that, attempting to route around damage. Rather than worrying about their own task they'll react to the needs of the team, trying to accomplish the goals set for the team, rather than worrying about a task that may or may not have been assigned to (or, better, selected by) them.

It's from this collective responsibility that "self-organizing" arises, and without it, an agile team is simply a set of very small teams managed by a central command structure.

Lazy Web
Have you experienced both mindsets? Have you managed to move a team from individual to collective responsibility? Does this make sense to some of you?

No comments: