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I'm not skipping my work, but I have dependencies on other teams' work which block my own. What should I say in daily stand up meetings, if I cannot do any work?

I agree that telling I am waiting for dependancy should work. But that cannot go on for weeks, right? I am being paid on daily basis, and I should be saying some useful work for every day.

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If you are blocked, it is the scrum master's (or your manager's) job to know so s/he can unblock you. This could mean s/he works with the other team or that you are assigned other work. Either way, s/he needs to know to do her/his job. By not sharing your status, you are preventing any action to correct the issue. –  atk Dec 5 '13 at 13:14
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Scrum or no scrum, never be afraid to admit you're having a problem. Programming is often volatile and complicated. The more experienced devs tend to be the first to put issues forward. But as others have pointed out, the problem your having is 95% of the point of the daily standup. It's exactly what it's there for. –  Erik Reppen Dec 5 '13 at 17:49
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Go XP and pair-program. –  JeffO Dec 5 '13 at 18:21
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If you are blocked then the team should be getting your something else to work on. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Dec 7 '13 at 15:07

6 Answers 6

up vote 52 down vote accepted

And If I cannot do any work, What should I say in status meetings?

If your status is "Cannot do any work until X is done by Team Y", then that's the minimum of what you should say in your status meeting.

But, if I were running the meeting, I'd also what to hear:

  • What you are doing to mitigate the time lost due to waiting
  • Who on the other Team you are talking with about how to get their part done, so that you can start
  • What is the current status of the other Team, and the prediction as to when you'll become unblocked
  • While I am blocked, is there thing else I can help with to keep things moving?
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"What is the current status of the other Team, and the prediction as to when you'll become unblocked" On a daily stand up, one or all members of the other team will be present, and they are far more qualified to talk about the status of their own work. "Who on the other Team you are talking with about how to get their part done, so that you can start" You're assuming the OP can talk to whatever team is blocking their own work. That's not always the case. –  Yannis Dec 5 '13 at 13:22
    
Agreed. And about what I am doing in my lost time: Nothing productive i would say. Sometimes, I am learning about my field through Internet. But most of the other times, I do not do much of productive work. I really do not know what to do. –  niki Dec 5 '13 at 13:27
    
yup makes sense. Thanks. –  niki Dec 5 '13 at 13:31
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I might also want to hear, "While I am blocked, is there thing else I can help with to keep things moving?" –  HLGEM Dec 5 '13 at 14:03
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@Yannis "On a daily stand up, one or all members of the other team will be present". Actually no. Standups are for within a team. Other teams have their own standups. It's usually the Scrummaster's job to facilitate interaction with other teams. –  DJClayworth Dec 5 '13 at 15:31

Nothing to say? You have the MOST IMPORTANT thing there is to say in a daily meeting:

something (that someone else can fix) is keeping me from doing what I am supposed to be doing

You need to say this loudly and clearly at every opportunity until the block goes away or someone tells you the task is no longer yours. You may also want to say

until I can work on x I have been doing y

But if you don't volunteer that, I sure will ask you. The reason most teams hold daily meetings is that blocks like this are quite common. They used to go on for weeks and the blockers often had no idea they were blocking others. So telling someone your issue is really the whole point of the meeting. The whole "yesterday I narrowed in on the layout bugs and today I think I should have them solved" report is fairly boring. The excitement and value comes when problems in the project can be entirely averted by vital information at the right time. So take a big breath and sing out.

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If your current status is "waiting for Joe to finish what he's working on", then Joe (and everyone else on the team) should know about it. It's your manager's / scrum master's responsibility to either help Joe finish a bit faster, or find you something else to do while you wait.

That's what stand up meetings are all about, keeping the team informed of every member's current status.

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@JoeStrazzere Who cares if Joe is present? If he's not, someone will let him know what was said in the meeting... –  Yannis Dec 5 '13 at 13:34
    
Careful: Joe may feel (rightfully or not) blindsided by this and get angry. (and if I were leading the meeting my first question would be "did you talk to Joe? What did he say?" So if you can present this as "I talked to Joe, HE is busy as well, and he thinks he'll be finished XYZ". –  Clay Nichols Dec 5 '13 at 15:41
    
@ClayNichols However, that's a problem of your direct boss, and not of you. If you can't work because of dependency on Joe, you should clearly state it. –  tohecz Dec 5 '13 at 18:01
    
@tohecz, if Joe gets pissed @ you, it won't matter that you were right; in fact, the more right you are, the more pissed he may be if he's not emotionally well adjusted. (Yes, the emotionally mature thing for Joe to do is to think "yep, I was blocking this person and hurting the team, I'll fix it". But in my 26+ year career too often people are not rational. Bottom line: getting the information out is #1 priority, but IF you can do it DIPLOMATICALLY I highly recommend doing so to avoid causing personal conflicts. –  Clay Nichols Dec 6 '13 at 17:51

One of the major points in stand up meetings is to identify blockers, they should be brought up and hopefully resolved. That's also why they generally take place at the start of the day.

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It is imperative that you say that you are blocked due to a dependency on another team, I would even do that the moment it happens and not wait for the stand-up meeting.

In our scrum we have an impediment column, which means a certain sub-task is blocked due to an external issue (another team, environment, etc.). This is also important because if you (and your scrum) have many or long impediments it might be a sign that the planning was incomplete and you started working on tasks before everything was ready.

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+1 for "Don't wait for the stand-up to say this." –  AndSoYouCode Dec 6 '13 at 7:59

Inform the team of your status, and use available time for professional development. What you can say at the standup, in such circumstances, is 'Still waiting for x: in the meantime studied up in HTML5/CSS3/Canvas-Object as implemented in Chrome'. If some of your coder pals get upset at your training window, they might dump some work on you to keep you busy.

I've heard stories of government contracts where people were supposed to design, code, test, and document the system in parallel. Needless to say, much effort is wasted and the project doesn't get done any sooner or any cheaper.

Often the people 'blocked' are in Unit Testing, Integration Testing, Technical Writing, or similar roles that only become active toward the end of the development cycle.

In such circumstances one can use the opportunity for professional development, whatever that means in your discipline. For technical writing one suspects this is focused on online-help development tools, screen capture and cropping tools, 'infographics', etc. If you're a coder in some capacity then it may not matter whether you're focus is on QA - probably any coding area is worthwhile.

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I suspect this is one of the most effective strategies to ensure everyone at the meeting is working to get you unblocked, as not only will you inform the team leads/scrum master you will also encourage other people to catch up so you don't get to play anymore. +1 –  enderland Dec 7 '13 at 2:48
    
Another strategy, building upon this idea, is to go start doing the work of the other teams. Clear your blockers while you're learning. –  jmort253 Dec 7 '13 at 4:14
    
When we are blocked we take a different task, the sprint work needs to progress has much as possible –  Sigal Shaharabani Dec 8 '13 at 9:53

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