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I am in a software development project and we have daily stand-up meetings, which are held in the open space next to other peoples' desks.

I would prefer to have more privacy during the meeting, since some of the things we discuss are not meant to be heard by the people working nearby. This is because we are several teams that work independently, but demand deliverables from each other, since the global project we are working on is the same.

Also, I think it is disturbing to the people working nearby to have the noise from our meeting interrupting their work.

In general, is it normal to have stand-up meetings in the open or should they be held in a closed meeting room?

How should I deal with this particular situation? I've already mentioned this to the project managers and they failed to find a room that was available. This has been a while and they have not made any attempt to find a room.

Edit: If we talk about problems we have with the other teams, we obviously don't want them to overheard what we are saying. The meetings are scheduled for 15 minutes but tend to be longer.

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    What do you mean by things they're not supposed to hear ? Sensitive things ? Confidential ? Or just not about their own work ? And how long are those meeting, if it's 15mn you may have trouble from higher management to lock a room for you every day. – Walfrat Aug 4 '16 at 8:47
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    "but demand deliverables from each other" - why does it matter if they know the status of your team's work? If they're relying on your output and you're late, then they're going to find out sooner or later - and if it's going to cause them problems they should know well in advance: if they overhear it at your meeting you've let them down. If it's the other way around and you're moaning they're holding you up, does it matter if they know that? As long as you're polite. I'm sure there are things that should be kept private but I don't see it's important for cross-team dependencies. – Rup Aug 4 '16 at 8:55
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    Talking about problems with other teams: stick to the facts then: "I'm blocked because I need deliverable A from team X and they're missed their deadline again. Do we have a firm commitment from them?" "I need help from someone on team B but no-one's available - can you talk to their PM for me?" "I'm getting distracted by lots of requests from team C, I'm falling behind on task X and I need your help sorting this out". Save specifics and ranting for one-on-one meetings with your PM or team leader - they're likely not useful at stand-up anyway. – Rup Aug 4 '16 at 9:33
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    A standup is supposed to be exactly that - the team standing up at their desk and reporting facts on their situation. Have you considered that this is precisely why its done in the open at your company? That the team leads want the other teams to hear updates about stuff they are stakeholders in, and also hear problems with stuff they are supposed to deliver? If they want to clarify or respond, all they have to do is stand up and do so, thats the spirit of a stand up meeting. – Moo Aug 4 '16 at 10:30
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    A standup should be little more than each member giving a statement of what they will (or hope to) achieve today. Why should that be in secret? If your standups are longer than 15 minutes, you're all waffling too long or your team is too big. – Grimm The Opiner Aug 4 '16 at 15:05
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In general, is it normal to have stand-up meetings in the open or should they be held in a closed meeting room?

There's two sides to it.

a) The stand-up meeting is open to guests. That's part of the transparency. Anyone could come in and hear your project and your status.

b) Holding your stand-up so other teams are basically forced to attend due to limited space is not acceptable. Not because of privacy, but because you are interrupting the other teams.

So yes, your meeting should be in a closed room, but it should also be completely open to anyone on other teams. If you have problems with other teams, talk with them, not about them. Except for retrospectives, there is no privacy in agile. Privacy hinders information flow and collaboration.

"agile" is no fixed set of rules I could quote, but "Openness" is a core value of Scrum. If you google daily stand-up, in one way or another it will say that the team and scrum master are the active participants and PO, Stakeholders and basically anyone else interested can be a passive participant.

The proper thing to do would be to grab the other guy right in that meeting and say "hey, we have been waiting for weeks now, we need to get our task done, can you deliver on date X or do we need to find another solution? It's about talking with people, not talking about people.

Even if you do traditional instead of agile: talking about people behind their backs is not solving any problems. Talk to them and find a solution with them. If you do that, it should not be a problem to have people listen to your daily.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Aug 5 '16 at 14:34
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Open does not necessarily mean candid, and candid does not necessarily mean blunt/rude.

It's entirely reasonable to say -- in public -- that you are waiting for work required from someone else, inside or outside your department. Nontechnical speculation/opinion on why the work hasn't been completed is neither needed nor appropriate in this meeting; if you need to discuss that, do it later/offline.

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As others have pointed out, these meetings are meant to be open to your co-workers, so discussing personal grievances at them is not acceptable in the first place. But trying to keep your meeting somewhat contained and out of the way of the other teams is a reasonable effort.

I would find it very odd if team-members working together on the same project aren't seated near each other - if that isn't the case, a change in seating arrangements might be in order, so that you can hold these meetings together in a semi-private manner around one person's desk.

If your team is not seated near each other, perhaps one of your co-workers has a desk that is more isolated than the others, or co=workers who are not around at the usual time of your stand-up meeting - this would be an ideal location for your meeting.

And if management isn't completely against the idea of moving the meeting to an enclosed office space, but cannot find one, you could take a moment of your time (when you aren't supposed to be busy doing something else) to find some space yourself, that you know is open at the time of your meeting, and suggest holding it there if appropriate.

You might even be able to hold it outside, if your office area has an outdoors space that belongs to your company, and enough freedom that you could reasonably suggest this - but it would be fairly unusual and awkward to hold business meetings in a space even more open to the public, so I wouldn't recommend it.

The bottom line is, if there isn't any office desk that offers more privacy, and no other location in your building to hold the meeting or elsewhere, you may be stuck holding it around other people. In which case, try to keep the meeting brief, try to stick to tasks related directly to your work, and try not to say anything you wouldn't want to say in front of your co-workers - if someone outside your group is holding up your work, you should be telling them this before it comes up in the meeting, then you can briefly mention it at the so that your co-workers know you've already addressed this issue to the best of your ability.

  • your comments were good but I think your bottom-line is exactly describing the OP situation: they feel the need to comment on some stuff related to other teams failing to do their work. I can't see why it should be avoided? For instance, "I couldn't deliver this yesterday because team X delivered a buggy feature that impacted me". While true and clear, this may sound rude (as in an indirect finger-in-the-face) to that team X. – igorsantos07 Aug 4 '16 at 16:51
  • @igorsantos07 The bottom line is exactly describing the problem OP is facing - because there might not be a location they can move to, and they might have to put up with holding the meeting where it is, and will have to act accordingly. And to be clear, if there is something that another team needs to do for them to continue work, they should politely let that team know outside the meeting, and only briefly bring it up at the stand-up If asked what they are doing and why they haven't progressed – Zibbobz Aug 4 '16 at 17:09
  • Oh, got it. I only read the question as in "give me solutions", not in "can I work around those limitations?". My mention on the issue with other teams is that any comment may sound pointy to some people, but indeed it's wrong to open up a discussion about other's work during a standup. – igorsantos07 Aug 4 '16 at 19:14
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It's not ideal that your stand-ups are out in the open in front of other teams. It prevents you from speaking your mind.

That being said, you can be honest without being mean.

  • If you are blocked on team Y, say you are blocked on team Y. If this is true, this is not "mean"; it is true, and it is their fault. It is their responsibility to fix it. If they don't want to hear it, that's tough. They need to hear it, and they will hear it whether it comes from your manager in person or by overhearing your stand-up.

  • If it's actually not their fault but a result of bad planning on your manager's part, then it's your manager's fault and he needs to hear that in your stand-up anyway. Ideally he'll own up to the problem immediately. If he doesn't, that's a new question.

  • If you have anything bad to say about team Y that doesn't affect your work, then it has no part of stand-up. Talk about it confidentially with your manager during your weekly one-on-one meeting, or maybe consider not saying anything at all if it's not a constructive complaint.

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At my previous company, the largest project's daily standup was held near other people's desks. It was very disruptive. I once asked why they didn't get a room and was told that they needed access to the test machines they were standing in front of. (I'm not sure why that matters at a standup, but I didn't push further.) So, the first thing is to find out if there is some specific reason they think they need to meet there as opposed to somewhere else. If the specific location matters to them, there might not be much you can do.

Assuming it's not something like that: when some are content with the status quo and others want a change, the burden of doing something about it falls to the latter. You've suggested moving and they haven't. Your coworkers might have complained about the noise and it didn't help. What can you do to make it easier to get the outcome you want? Perhaps you can find and book a suitably-sized, conveniently-located meeting room -- then your suggestion isn't "get a room" but "I've got a room; let's meet there". If the concern is openness, make sure everybody knows when and where that meeting is and that anybody can walk in.

If you do need to talk about other teams out in the open, you can report facts without conveying opinions or frustration. But it can be frustrating to have to run everything you might say in your 2 minutes of air time through the "can this be taken badly if overheard?" filter, I agree. If you need to make the "it's bad to be overheard" argument, try casting it that way -- you want people to focus on sharing needed information, not on monitoring the potential audience and perhaps withholding information as a result.

  • @JoeStrazzere pretty hard; it was part of a whole lab setup with private networking and stuff. – Monica Cellio Aug 4 '16 at 17:28

protected by Jane S Aug 4 '16 at 12:56

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