The hidden allure of a standup meeting

I would be interested in knowing how many programmers are single due to the fact that to approach an unknown person at a party is a completely illogical and ineffective act. Think about it:

  1. A person wants to get acquainted with someone who is not labeled as approachable in any way.
  2. Even if a person wanted to get acquainted with someone, it is not possible to find out the other person’s qualification criteria.
  3. Without such information about the person, it is impossible to choose an appropriate topic to talk about. It is not possible to ascertain any information about the person without having a conversation.

It is clear that every good engineer worthy of the title must despise this utter confusion but nothing can be done and it must be admitted that this dismal chaos reflects the state of the world. A tried-and-tested solution is to get completely drunk and yield to the part of the brain inherited from the apes and be unburdened by logic.

Unfortunately however, this strategy for combating illogical reality is not tolerated at work (with the exception of people in management). At the same time, in the name of agile processes, it is expected that programmers fish out, in the cesspool of reality, the building blocks of their own constructions with their bare hands or that they will come up with some original ideas. A crucial question thus arises: How to throw the chaos of the real world on to programmers whose most prized quality is the ability to evade chaos?

The Agile Manifesto contributes to this with useless advice that human interaction is more important than processes and tools, as if the existence of interaction was a matter of fact. It is not. And this gets us back to the beginning of this story: How to start interacting when ineffective jabbering without a goal in the environment of a well-functioning engineering team is something strange, even a sign of failure? Most teams have a collective feeling that the shorter the stand-up meeting the better because “jabbering deters one from coding”.

Scrum indeed provides the grooming ceremony for times when there are questions in technically unclear areas and the primary objective of a stand-up meeting is simply to monitor risk (the secondary/indirect result is then motivation). However, I cannot help comparing an occasional and planned grooming session with a prepared topic of conversation for a get-acquainted event for singles. As an emergency solution it’s fine as long as there is no other way; however it still is an emergency solution.

For this reason, whenever I can, I strive to entice people into talking at stand-up meetings. Let them express what’s on their minds, even random thoughts, their feelings from a previous day, something that made them angry, allowing them to convey their apprehensions about an upcoming task, etc. I contend that this a precise view of the reality from which unexpected benefits can arise. Of course it is important to properly manage all of this, to pay special attention to what resonates in others and to be able to tactfully end pointless discourse - that is the goal of a true scrum master. No matter how you manage this, do not allow stand-up meetings to degenerate into a recital of issue numbers with incorporated estimates of the remaining workload. While that may be the quickest way, it also squanders potentially astounding potential.