Focus on the Right Point

This post came from a pub discussion with Liz, and actually originated from this thought I’ve been having for some time, an came back in one of my recent readings (not to say also in one of my recent projects)…

I participate in some agile mailing lists, and one question that frequently happens is what I should do about people not showing up/showing up late for the stand-ups in the morning. And normally this comes with statements like: “I’ve tried it all already: waiting, not waiting, punishing late arrivers, making them buy ice cream, etc… and nothing works

And this situation came again to me mind while reading Ricardo Semler‘s book, Voce Esta Louco! (not published in english so far, but it means You Are Crazy!), when he describes how flexible time was introduced in his company.

To give some context, Ricardo runs Semco, a brazilian company which has business units in a lot of different areas, from shipbuilding to hotel management, but is best known for the industrial democracy that its owner has been implementing since the 80’s.

This particular situation he describes occurred when Semco, in the 80’s, was going to allow production line employees to have flexible work hours, and as expected, most of the top managers were totally against the idea, since it violated a basic principle: for a production line to work, everybody has to be there at the same time.

And ricardo’s answer for that was (free translation):

It’s obvious: if the employees are not working at the same time, the production line stops. We know it, but the adults that work in the production line also know it. And why would they put their productivity and their jobs at risk? If they are not worried about how the production line is, producing or not, then we have a much bigger problem, and the sooner we know it, the better.

And that’s what happened, one day before the program started, the employees gathered and decided what time they would start to work.

But what does this have to do with daily standups? Well, the whole example was to indtroduce the same answer I always give to these questions: if your team doesn’t show up for the standups, you shouldn’t worry about why they are late, but ask yourself why they don’t care. That’s your problem.

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