Scrum is not about meetings!

by The Agile Consultant @AgileRandall

Every single time I start at a new client I have to go through the same thing again and again. The complaints about the meetings! So here’s my tips on how to get the team past that first awkward stage.

Stop using the word “meeting”

This article points out that The Scrum Guide does not use the M word for meetings, they are Events. Moreover the author very eloquently explains:

Scrum events aren’t meetings but opportunities for a conversation

The idea is that you go to an event meeting room, sit around a table and discuss stuff. This is not a meeting!

Be Persuasive

This project management question answer post has great advice about ensuring a team attends the events meetings. This is from the accepted answer:

Explaining to people the benefits of attending & then have them want to attend is a far stronger tactic & more likely to bring the improvements in process that agile offers. Offer insights & info in the meeting that are unavailable elsewhere – treat the session as special & attending the session is a benefit not a chore.

My takeaways:

  • Don’t put everything in Jira! Keep some information secret, that they can only get from the events meetings. Had a conversation with a key stakeholder regarding a specific developer’s user story? Don’t tell them. When they don’t attend the event meeting and screw up, they’ll learn a strong lesson.
  • Make special “I’m a Scrum winner!” badges and give them out in events meetings. Just make sure to take them back if they fail to attend the next event meeting.
  • Just explain that the events meetings are great and not a chore!

Having said that if the group needs the agile process to work then there is a need to explain that all the agile ceremonies are a package – attend them all or attend none – only people fully involved in the project can remain on the project.

Make it clear that they can go and find another job if they don’t want to attend. See their attitude change then!

People with a bad attitude will degrade an agile project & cause it to fail. So they either need to be assigned to other projects, retrained to get better engaged or finally encouraged to move on & find a new job.

If you can find a retraining brainwashing program that makes them more engaged dosile then go for it. But don’t tolerate non-conformers, period. People that disagree with Scrum are the worst kind of people and the sooner they’re out the better.

This insightful quote is from the second highest rated answer:

If they still don’t show up, have their line manager talk to them. It’s your job to improve the process and help them along, but it’s their line managers job to make sure they do what is asked of them.

Developers see the word self-organising and they think they can just do what they want. Clear boundaries need to be communicated and that is often best done by management.

Get management involved

Seriously, I’ve had a few cases where the developers started refusing to attend some of the events meetings. The daily standup is the worst.

Just last week I had a team refusing to attend the daily stand up. I tried explaining that it was useful and they had to get on board. They used Jira as an excuse, saying that I can see what they did yesterday and that the currently assigned task is what they’re going to do today.

But The Scrum Guide clearly stipulates that we must communicate verbally during events meetings. So I got the manager in and he put them straight. One developer actually walked out! Can you believe it! The others have fallen into line since.

So don’t underestimate the power of authority.

Final Thoughts

You are the Scrum Master, be assertive, be authoritive or be ignored. Sure you can run to the manager but that only works a couple of times before some kind of crunch time decision needs to be made and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that. Being fired by a client, while not uncommon, is not pleasant. So set the boundaries early on. Mandatory events meetings are MANDATORY for a reason… this stuff just works.

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