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I have read this question, but my issue is a little bit more specific: how do I get one person to not talk for as long in a scrum? I'm the scrum master. Its more than, "get to the point". Its how to do it in a scrum meeting. If you do not know what a scrum meeting is, please do not vote to close this issue.

THIS IS RELATED TO AGILE/SCRUM MEETINGS - NOT NORMAL BUSINESS MEETINGS

We have a person in our daily standup/scrum meeting that takes at least five minutes to say what they feel like they need to say. The person in question is the release manager. This person gives a near hour-by-hour play of what they did yesterday and what they plan on doing today. Everyone else takes about twenty seconds. What is the best way to get the person to make shorter updates.

What can I say during the meeting that isn't rude to let her know that she is going way too long? I would like to tell her in person rather than an email.

I feel as if the person has to overcompensate and tell everyone how much they work because they have to work weekends/nights when most people aren't working and using the systems.

Here is an example of the person's update:

"Today, I have a meeting with so and so at nine am..." when the person located in another country.

It is not relevant to anyone in the room. What can I say to get this person to understand why we having a meeting?

Here is a draft email I am thinking about sending out to the team:

Dear ...

It is my opinion that we are practicing scrum for scrum’s sake and there is no value in that.

These meetings are not for everyone to give a detailed, play by play, of their previous day’s work. We are currently doing “Round table status reports” without action items. If there were no action items for anyone after the meeting, there was no purpose to having developers stop working and gather into a conference room. Status reports and other communication can be done over email, instant message or a phone call.

Each team member presents three topics. This single aspect of the stand-up meeting is the most difficult to implement effectively.

  1. Yesterday: What did you work on since the last Scrum?
  2. Today: What will you be working on till the next Scrum?
  3. In my way: What impediments are you facing? You are presenting progress information in terms that are meaningful to the other team members.

Your audience is everyone else on the team – remember this is not a detailed status report to the team. Don’t let this become a meeting where someone has to ask probing questions in order to get a satisfactory understanding of your true situation. Give Concise crisp updates. Updates should be short and focused on the task at hand. It should take you less than a minute to say what you need to say.

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    possible duplicate of How can I tell people to get to the point? – gnat Aug 5 '15 at 21:09
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Aug 9 '15 at 0:45
  • The letter is making a mountain out of a molehill. If you're their manager, just saying after they're done, "Please keep it brief, scrum is not for getting into fine details" is enough. – Kai Aug 11 '15 at 16:38
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What can I say during the meeting that isn't rude to let her know that she is going way too long? I would like to tell her in person rather than an email.

You have the right idea, but the wrong approach. Do tell her in person, rather than by email. But don't say it during the meeting (unless all else fails).

Since there is only one person at issue here, talk to the individual in question privately. Explain that the team needs her to be focused and succinct in her turn during the daily standup, and explain why.

Coach her, rather than criticize her. Do it individually and privately.

If it continues, talk to her again and point out that it's still taking too long. You might offer to give her some training materials about Scrum, Standups, and her role in them.

If none of that helps, then during the next meeting before anyone speaks, tell the group the concept of succinctness, and talking only about what others need to hear.

If that still fails, the next time she starts to go off course, politely interrupt with something like "Excuse me a moment, but I think we're getting off track here. Please tell us only what others need to hear."

As @JamesRyan wisely points out in his comment, you might choose to offer the opportunity for a follow-on discussion between the release manager and anyone else who wants to hear the rest of what she has to say. That way, not everyone has to use up their time. In my shop we called that a "Tag Along".

(As a Scrum Master, you might need a bit more training on keeping the daily Standup on track?)

  • And/or start one of the meetings with a general reminder of the expectations of a scrum meeting: what you've done that others may have been waiting for (just enough that they know it's ready, not gory detail), what you're going to work on next (so others can plan, and to make sure you're addressing the right priorities), and what if anything is getting in your way (so someone can volunteer to assist after the scrum, if they have what's needed) That's it. Anything else should wait until the scrum is over, or taken to another meeting or e-mail or whatever. – keshlam Aug 5 '15 at 22:29
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    also don't just cut people off if a discussion starts, it might still be an important one to have, offer to continue that afterwards with just the relevant people. – JamesRyan Aug 6 '15 at 9:22
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    @JoeStrazzere thats pretty much what my comment said! give them an alternative, rather than leave them without closure on something they are thinking about – JamesRyan Aug 6 '15 at 10:36
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I think you're basically there - you need to get the scrum more focused on what a scrum should be. Once you've done that, you can gently interrupt people in the scrum and say something like "That doesn't seem to be relevant to this team - could you try and stay focused on things that this team needs to know about?"

However, the tone of your e-mail reads very badly to me (I don't know if English is your native language or not) - it reads like a lecture to a naughty schoolchild rather than an actual attempt to improve the value of the scrum. One thing you should bear in mind here that as the scrum master, you bear a greater share of the responsibility for the fact that the scrums are out of control than anyone else. Humility is the key here.

  • C# is my native language. haha. I do agree it sounds harsh,and do realizes its my responsibility. That is why I am on here asking quesitons. I do like the comment,"that doesn't seem relevant to the team" – crh225 Aug 5 '15 at 18:59
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I would do this in two steps. First try to do it without singling her out. At your next scrum, open by reminding the entire group what the expectations are. Tell everyone what you want to hear, what you don't want to hear, and how much time you want it to take. Maybe mention things she's been doing, but don't specifically call her out on it. Hopefully she will catch on and take the hint.

If that doesn't work, just pull her aside after one of the meetings. Something like:

I appreciate the detail you're sharing, but the purpose of a scrum is to give a very brief update. For example, from today's meeting I really only needed you to tell us X, Y, and Z.

I think these conversations should fix the problem without making her feel reprimanded. Definitely don't send that email. As Philip explains, the tone comes off very harsh and would not be received well.

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    Ironically, addressing the whole meeting in order to improve the performance of a single person at a particular task, when everyone else is doing it fine, is precisely the opposite of using the standup meeting to deliver only the information that everyone needs to hear ;-) – Steve Jessop Aug 6 '15 at 10:15
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What I like to say at the standup is "OK everybody, this is the standup, we need to keep it brief because we're all busy. I need to impose a 30 second limit on your input."

Make sure she's not the last to report.

If she then takes too long, just politely interrupt her and say, "sorry __________ I have to cut you off there unless you can quickly summarise what it is you need to report." Then move to the next person. She'll get the message, and it's handled without embarrassment or penalty. It's the process that's cut her short, not you.

She is the release manager - so really he input should be really minimal or non existent.

  • As a team member, how am I supposed to report 2 impediments along with my recent and next work in 30 seconds? A hard time limit is a bad idea, because the amount of relevant information varies wildly from team member to team member, and from day to day. – meriton Aug 6 '15 at 10:04
  • Perhaps a range rather than a specific amount would be a better idea. – James Aug 6 '15 at 11:07
  • Interrupt with "Let's not go into too much detail, so your issues are A, B, and are there any others? We can discuss outside the meeting if we need to go into more detail" – NibblyPig Aug 6 '15 at 12:28
  • She is the last one to report. – crh225 Aug 6 '15 at 13:06
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Really didn't want myself to repeat what others said, but I have a slightly different approach to share. During one of such out-smarting members' long scrum speech, I had to quench him down by asking time (while he was still speaking) to tell that we cant afford to hear more details while being with the current team, but that we would appreciate to hear from him offline. Later, when he repeated this next time, I personally told him to send his updates first through a mail to me(the scrum master), putting them in bullets, very precisely and to the point, before an hour of our scrum call. This not only helped him to get into a good manner of a precise dialogue, but also gave him an opportunity of learning to speak with deliverable points. It hardly took us a week or two to let him speak without a mail update in advance.

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    Downvoter: care to comment? Anil's answer could use some clean-up but he seems to make a good point and is speaking from experience. – Lilienthal Aug 6 '15 at 7:39
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Here is an example of the person's update:

"Today, I have a meeting with so and so at nine am..." when the person located in another country.

It is not relevant to anyone in the room. What can I say to get this person to understand why we having a meeting?

I think maybe you need to start by understanding the purpose of the stand-up yourself.

The "meeting with so and so" absolutely is relevant. From 9am until a certain time afterwards, this individual in your team will not be contactable and will not be eating up scrum hours performing scrum tasks. This is completely relevant. It may not be "interesting" to you but that's not really the point.

That there is a solid reason for this item to be mentioned is convenient, because it's also nice for the individual involved to feel like his team* (and, in particular, his supervisor) are taking an interest in the amount of work he puts into his job, and have some form of recognition of that.

So these points certainly should be mentioned, and from the way you're talking I suspect that this addresses a large part of the problem.

However, five minutes is certainly too long for an individual contribution. It seems like this person is going into way too much detail on each point, probably going past the "what I did" and "what I'll be doing", into more of the "what that task involved, the problems I faced and how I overcame them". That stuff is worth talking about but not in stand-up.

In conclusion, instead of trying to persuade this individual to talk about fewer things, just encourage them to be more concise. You can do this without any theatrics or formal, condescending emails, by beginning the session with a simple "alright, let's keep it snappy today — thirty seconds per person please!" and a wry smile. That's all it needs to be. And as scrum master, to be blunt, that's your job.

If the individual still starts rabbiting on about off-topic things, just politely interrupt with a "sorry, Joffrey, one moment … shall we take this off-line for now? Probably a little too detailed for stand-up?"

The expected response at this point is "oh, sure, okay".

If you do not get that response then there are bigger issues in your team that deserve being addressed as a separate question.


* Speaking of teams, though, why is a release manager in your team? And hence in your stand-up meeting? That's a little peculiar in my book. It doesn't seem like their activities — meetings or anything else — would have a direct impact on your team's performance, interaction potential and available man-power. If that's the case, then it certainly explains this problem. You shouldn't have people from outside your team in your stand-up meeting.

  • Not sure whether this is a localisation thing, but in my environment to "take something offline" has evolved from a term useful in conference calls to a term useful in any general meeting sense, to mean "talk about it later, outside of this meeting". – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 6 '15 at 21:10
  • Our company has taken over software from a contracting company. We followed their process for over two years while we learned and worked alongside them. In their process they had the release manager join the meeting, but he rarely said anything. Usually, this environment is now down/up. I agree its good to know she isnt going to be available, but we have instant messaging that lets us know they are in a meeting. – crh225 Aug 6 '15 at 21:59
  • You hit the problem on the head. She is going more of what that task involved, the problems I faced and how I overcame them. I also like the idea of right before the meetings starts, all smiles and say, lets keep this short today! A little suggestive thinking. – crh225 Aug 6 '15 at 22:02
  • @crh225: Just basic human interaction, I would have thought :P – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 20 '15 at 13:46
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Since modifying the behavior of individuals is very difficult, an approach I have been a part of is to move standups to an IM tool. Each team member simply answers the "3 questions" by a certain time. By doing this you meet the spirit of the stand up while also creating a record that can be referred to throughout the day.

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    With our kanban boards, and our crazy thought our jira workflows, I feel as if stand up meetings are pointless. Everyone goes around and is pretty much like, "yep I worked on that one yesterday, And next to my name is what I am working on today." Usually our blocking items get worked out before the meeting. I feel as if we are just doing scrum meeting because someone wrote an agile book and said it was a good idea. – crh225 Aug 5 '15 at 19:49
  • @crh225: if the person in question is saying in the standup, "I will have a meeting at 9am", it therefore takes place earlier than that. So it sounds to me as though the meetings serve the "valuable" business purpose of providing a spurious reason for everyone to start work before 9am. I'm not really a morning person ;-) – Steve Jessop Aug 6 '15 at 10:19
  • our standups are at 8am. – crh225 Aug 6 '15 at 12:46
  • @crh225: I'm so sorry :( – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 6 '15 at 16:21
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You can try and lead them in sentence like...

"So tell us about . Just a few quick points on where you stand and ETA."

Do the same for everyone else so that there is no sense of singling out. After that meet with said person and just tell them these meetings are just for quick updates. If they feel need for detailed reports to you then have them E-Mail all the notes to you on what's going on. That will discourage them from going crazy with information in the scrum and give you the information in a manageable form. Either that or they will abandon all the typing and get on with work.

protected by Community Aug 6 '15 at 5:22

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