Archive | February 2012

Stuck in an overlong Agile stand up? Try the two hands rule

When working with Agile teams the daily stand up meeting provides a heart beat to the day and an opportunity for team members to share information. Stand up meetings work best when they are short and balance the inputs across all the people in the team. A common problem is stand ups that start running too long.

Raising two hands in a stand up

When two hands are raised then it's a signal to move the stand up meeting on

The Two Hands Rule

Sometimes the conversations at stand up can get too detailed or go on too long. For these situations we’ve introduced the “two hands” rule; if anyone thinks the current conversation has gone off topic, or is no longer effective, then they raise a hand. Once a second person raises a hand then that’s a sign to stop the conversation and continue with the rest of the stand up. Those speaking can continue the conversation after the stand up has finished.

This approach makes it easy for people to share their view on the effectiveness of the conversation in a way that reduces the risk of causing offence. It also provides a way for the team to detect and correct its own behaviour.

I introduced this idea recently to a team who agreed to give it a try. In a stand up a few days later I was talking with a team member and didn’t realise that our conversation had got too detailed and gone on too long. I missed seeing that two other team members had put their hands up. It wasn’t until one of them spoke up that I noticed! This is one of the characteristics of difficult conversations; we often become blind to signs, easily spotted by others, that the conversation has become ineffective. By agreeing with the team to use the “two hands” rule they helped me detect when they thought I’d become ineffective.

The technique can have some downsides though. It can feel direct or confrontational, especially when people first experience it. It’s important to discuss any issues after the stand up and consider reviewing the practice in a retrospective.

I’d like to hear your thoughts. Have you had stand up meetings that have taken too long? What approaches have you used? If you’ve tried something like the “two hands” rule, how did it go?

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