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The Dinner Table as Daily Standup

A dinner conversation with my sister-in-law this weekend got me thinking about her family's dinner ritual called "5 questions." It’s simple: they go around the dinner table and ask 5 questions that prompt the speaker to outline their day. It’s the same 5 questions every night and every person at the dinner table gets their turn to speak. I looked at my husband (who is also an Agile practitioner) as she was telling us this and joked that they had a dinner stand-up. Then it hit me:  that’s exactly what it was. A brief check-in on each of their kids’ lives in order to keep the family more connected.

The daily stand up is one of the core rituals of the Agile process. It’s a brief meeting (literally held standing up to keep people from talking too long) to just check in on what’s going on. A place where team members are guaranteed a moment in time to talk about what they’re doing, what their plan for the day is, and what problems/blockers they have. At this meeting, everyone in the team is made aware of progress and they can take blocking issues offline with other affected parties.

These days families are always on the go. I know that between shooing them out the door for school in the morning, picking them up at school in the afternoon, watching them scarf down dinner before they head off to evening activities, and then home to bed I barely get a 10 minute spurt to talk with my family. The 5 questions at dinner ensure that we reconnect and share our day.

Agile development teams are much like families in that you are working with the same people day in and day out. You get to know them on a personal level as well as professional. Also like families, they are on the go. Sprints move quickly and sometimes not everyone is working on the same thing, so it’s easy to stop talking to one person or another or to get disconnected from the group. The daily standup serves to bring everyone back to the table and have them reconnect and share their day. Issues are uncovered, problems are solved, and it only takes 15 minutes a day!

Your work family needs attention just like your home family. Keeping one another updated with what you are working on reinforces the idea of being a cohesive team instead of a number of individual contributors working on the same engagement.

What do the daily standup and the dinner table have in common? #agiledevelopment

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