Top 10 Negative Personas of a Daily Standup Meeting

WRITTEN BY Derek Huether

Standup Meeting

Agile teams should be holding a daily standup meeting.  Don’t think of it as a daily planning meeting. Think of it as a daily opportunity to have a shared understanding of what is getting done and what lies ahead.  During a daily standup meeting, participants sometimes exhibit negative personas that will detract from the meeting.  As an empowered team, it is your job to self-manage and encourage good behavior. Some of these behaviors are so common, we don’t even realize people are doing them. So, I’m giving them some names. Next time you hold a daily standup, see if anyone exhibits any of these 10 behaviors. If you think of some behaviors  that should be added to the list, I would love to see them.

Daily Standup Meeting Negative Personas

 

10. Pat Decker the Obsessive Phone Checker

This person does not always pay attention and is constantly look at her (or his) phone. Did a BFF just like something? Did someone on Twitter just favorite that pic of the team board? In addition to checking her phone, she likes to share what she sees with others during the standup. “Pssst, Bob, check out this Vine video or pic on Instagram”. She’s not so loud that she’s overly disruptive but now Bob missed what someone else said during the standup.

9. Stephen Craig who is Always Too Vague 

This person can get stuck on the same task for days but doesn’t want anyone to know. When speaking to the team, they are crazy vague. Stephen will offer very few details until the team pushes for a deadline. He (or she) will use language like “Yesterday I was working on task 123 and today I will be working on it some more”. No other information is volunteered. When asked if they need any help, they clarify they have no blockers or risks.

8. Bobbie Bainer the Team Complainer

When the attention is on Bobbie, get ready for the positive energy to be sucked right out of the room. Bobbie complains, complains, and complains some more. Management, teammates, or the technology is all fare game. Everything and everyone sucks and no one knows just how bad they have it. Don’t bring up religion or politics unless you want Bobbie to go right into a 20 minute tirade.

7. Jess Jewler who loves the Water Cooler

Jess comes to the daily standup to talk, but not about what needs to be done today. Instead, he or she will talk about just about everything else. The next 15 minutes is dedicated to the water cooler. Did you see the last episode of House of Cards or The Walking Dead?  Are you going to watch the Ravens play this weekend?  My son plays Minecraft and constructed this totally awesome building with redstone. Anything is fair game, as long as it’s not about work.

6. Billy Platitude with the Bad Attitude

Billy is a leftover from a bygone era. He was the best of the best mainframe developers and all he needs is a DLD and he’ll give you what you need… in a few months. You want any changes between now and then? Forget it!  He thinks all things agile are stupid and just plays along begrudgingly. You may catch him make cynical “funny” comments at standup to point out how right he is about how stupid agile is.

5. Will Funky the Non-Committal Junkie

Will does not want to be painted into a corner. Typically, he uses language like try, maybe, pretty sure, I’ll get back to you, we’ll see, would like to think, soon, almost. You’ll also see Will be the last person to comment on something and will usually go with the crowd.

4. Tom Mater the Specialty Updater

Tom only gives vague commitments, usually understandable only by those in his discipline. The overall team gains little value from the statements. If you ask him for details, he’ll either tell you to look it up in a tool or he’ll be very technical in his response. Half of the team doesn’t understand what the hell he’s talking about.

3. Drue Gru who thinks he’s Better Than You (and the team)

Drue has been around for a long time. He’s better than you and he knows it.  If you need him, you know where to find him. He either arrives to the standup meeting late or he doesn’t come at all.  He has little to say because you wouldn’t understand what he’s talking about. He already knows everything so what is he to gain by slumming with you and the team for 15 minutes? Let him know when something important happens. *sarcasm*

2. Pearl Revolver the Problem Solver

Pearl means well but she lacks a sense of time. She wants to have in-depth problem solving discussions on obstacles identified during the standup meeting. She’s very curious what issues others are having because she’s going to want to talk it out and fix it right then and there. Even if there is a reserved 15 minutes after the standup, Pearl figures there is no better time than the present to tackle a challenge.

1. Ian Krumpter the Interrupter

Do you listen or do you wait to talk?  Stop and think about that. There is a difference. Ian waits to talk. People can be binary in that way. If you’re talking, you’re less likely to be listening. He wants to prove just how awesome he is so you’ll see him interrupt even if the topic doesn’t really apply to him.

 

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22 comments on “Top 10 Negative Personas of a Daily Standup Meeting”

  1. ToF

    I think you forgot Derek Malher the compulsive labeler :-)

    He’s an agile coach or a scrum master. As an empowered team member /and/ team coach, it is his job to self-manage, to encourage good behavior and to describe the complex reality of the dynamics operating in his team with simple models. Alas some of the behaviors he’s confronted with are so common, he thought it would be good to put labels on them so that people can recognize them faster. But maybe the fun of inventing labels and personae goes a bit beyond what is useful and usable as a feedback for the team. Heck he doesn’t even tell us what to do with those labels? Put them on people, like in “Oh I see you are a Pat Decker?”
    Apart from that, he’s a funny guy to have within one’s team, and ver probably a visionary mind.
    Of course questions remain, like:
    – how do we deal with those pesky personae when we meet them?
    – how can we give and receive feedback without resorting to categorizing people (even with funny personae) ?

    Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Christophe (ToF), thank you so much for your comment.
      I have to admit, that actually sounds more like a Derek Huether! ;-)
      I agree, it’s easy to label people within the team rather than help them. I hope that’s not what’s happening out there. Still, many don’t recognize bad behavior until it’s pointed out. It actually happened to me last week. I went very domain specific when I was sharing what I was working on. That’s when there was an uncomfortable pause. What I had just shared wasn’t that helpful to the team. Someone brought it to my attention. I’m now very aware of what I did and will try to stay focused, for the team. That was my inspiration for writing this tongue-in-cheek list.

      Perhaps you’ve inspired me to write some upcoming posts or perhaps readers have comments to share.
      – how do we deal with these pesky personae when we meet them?
      – how can we give and receive feedback without resorting to categorizing people (even with funny personae)?

      Reply
  2. Nilesh Thali

    how about Chuck Courser, “the rule enforcer”, Jill Piper “the stereotyper”, Jim Hasting “time’s a-wasting”?

    Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Nilesh, let’s see if I understand the personas you listed. You correct me if this isn’t what you were thinking.
      Chuck thrives in a structured environment and reminds everyone of the team rules. Jill…I’m not sure about Jill. Please describe the stereotype for me. I think of Jim as the person on the team who does not see the value of a 15 minute standup meeting. He believes it would probably be more efficient if we had one weekly 1-hour sit-down meeting rather than five 15-minute minute standups. Was I close?

      Reply
  3. Ted M. Young

    I’m unclear on what the purpose of this list is? Putting aside the presumption that a stand-up is a “should”, how does this list help us “encourage good behavior”? This list seems more of a vent than something that can help us understand why people act like this (*cough* system *cough*). Why is Ian interrupting? Why does Bobbie complain all the time? Maybe the people aren’t the problem (*cough* system *cough*).

    Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Ted, I appreciate your candor. You might want to get that cough looked at. ;-)
      If this list can spawn conversation on the topic of how to encourage good behavior, I think that’s purpose enough for me. I’m not dwelling on bad behavior nor do I see this as venting. This is merely a lighthearted list. …and you’re right. Maybe the problem is something else (*wink* system *wink*).

      Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Thanks, Ted! I promise the next one will be more on the positive side.

      Reply
  4. Gilles Turcotte

    Darwin.
    When in search of an answer about humans, always roll-back to Darwin.

    The problem here is that the article is written in the right or wrong mode.
    As if there was a truth.
    There is no truth, there is math.
    Math is what defines universe, and universe hates waste.
    Darwin says humans are random part of this universe, wich is based on waste avoidance.
    (
    There is no hate really, no intention, no conciousness, no authority making decisions.
    What is, defined by maths, is the natural optimization, the precedence of the least energy use.
    )

    So, every type of personality exists for a reason, of low waste.
    Otherwise it would be waste created by nature, wich is a mathematical impossibility.

    The solution of your problem is finding what goes where, in order to create an optimal system.
    Every personality is adapted to something, has a role in the system, for wich they are optimized.
    Put them there, and you’ll have :
    – Very happy persons, including you
    – Very optimal system

    Don’t look for right and wrong, you won’t find.
    Look for a mathematical solution, an optimization.
    That you will find some … more than truth.

    Pleasure

    Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Gilles, that’s a very interesting perspective. Perhaps it’s as simple as helping these people find what makes them happy and productive.

      Reply
  5. Gilles Turcotte

    I go deeper in philosophy.
    Way deep.
    Nature do it right, let it be.
    Don’t make things happen, allow things to happen.
    Don’t help people, set them free.
    Artificial controlling environment prevent things.

    Do as one does when he wants to be inspired by the spectacular optimization of nature, observe things happen when it happens, note the environment, replicate it, let it be.
    Observe how one does when he is let alone, allow it to happen, this is value created.
    Create an environment where ones are allowed to create value in their ways, an envirionment that can add-up these values.
    One would argue that some are more productive than others, that all would produce more by doing so, but no, people have their ways, people don’t change.
    Create virtual realities inside boxes, molded on each individual, that are stackable on the outside.
    This is the system you have to create.

    Challenge ?
    There is no such thing as free candy.
    Good luck.

    Reply
  6. Gilles Turcotte

    A general philosophy is that humans are not problems, they are solutions.
    Don’t conrol solutions, allow it.

    Reply
  7. Gilles Turcotte

    After-a-night addition.
    Try to find value everywhere.
    A bad attitude may be pointing something wrong somewhere.
    Talk to your car mechanic (or best to a plane mechanic) about where is the problem when you perceive “something” elsewhere (they test the oil too know what is failing).
    Try to see a complainer as someone who may be more sensitive than the others to things that aren’t going right.

    You may juge a smoke detector as beeing too sensitive and pull-out the battery …. and then risk to not see the real bad that’s coming.
    Or just appreciate it’s sensitivity as a quality, do intelligent thinkink and change this burning-toast thing that’s gonna burn your house someday.
    Or if you can’t, put it far from the toaster.

    Am i very positive ?
    People surrounding me find me very, very, annoying.
    I am a very, very, critic person.
    I am this sentive detector, identifying what’s coming wrong, saying everyone to start thinking about what is coming bigger and bigger.
    I see this everyday, people telling me : Stop whining, i’m busy at doing things that will be wiped by what you whine about.
    I was in enterprises gone bankrupt this way.
    At least twice i predicted how and when they’d go bankrupt, suggesting solutions they thought was just whining, they just pull-out the battery and went bankrupt.

    The whiner in your team, if you try too silent hime by pleasing him, he could be the cutting edge you need to succeed.
    Who knows.
    I know nothing exists without a reason, it always goes with a need.

    Good luck or good lock ?

    (for the record, i just copy these thoughts here, i’m writing it for myself, thanks to you, you triggered it)

    Reply
  8. davide

    Really funny names and article ! :)

    Reply
  9. William

    Good article, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. Dan G

    I’ve played all those roles at some point, sometimes more than one in a single meeting, and it is a good reminder to see them called out. Rather than using the list as a means to label others, use it as a check for your self. How might others be perceiving you? Is the persona you are projecting counter to your goals? Catch yourself and reframe.

    Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Dan, thank you for adding your comment and sharing that advise. Since writing this list, I’ve caught myself playing one of the roles more than once. I can’t take full credit for the list. I polled other coaches at LeadingAgile and listened to some of their stories. Labeling people is not the goal. As you stated, being aware we’re doing what we’re doing and reframe our behavior. That’s the goal.

      Reply
  11. Alex

    Derek, I love the post.

    My reaction was that a funny stereotype of behaviors that make standups longer and provide less value to the team. The snappy names make it stand out more in my mind, and in the future I can think about my own comments during the standup in relation to these stereotypes.

    It sounds like people have had different reactions to your post than I did, and I can definitely understand where they are coming from as well. If you read this post, realize you are often interrupting people, ok maybe you would feel a little sheepish about it and be embarrassed to think you are an Ian Krumpter. And I don’t think anyone here is saying you should tell your co-worker, “Hey Bill, check out Derek’s list, you’re an Ian Krumpter, because that’s what you do during our standups”; that criticism just divides the team even more than the undesirable behavior does.

    But I have to respectfully disagree that the argument that this is labeling people. These are labels of a stereotyped behavior of fictional personas, not of an actual person. Only when you say, “John S at my standup is a non-committal junkie” do you actually label someone.

    Thanks for the post, it was a nice diversion from my standup frustrations. A great follow-up to this post would be, with regard to each of your stereotypes, what are some practical ways that we can help our teammates contribute to the standup more constructively?

    Reply
    • Derek Huether

      Alex, I appreciate the positive feedback. Writing the post really allowed me to reflect on how I conduct myself. I think the hardest part was realizing I may have traits from a few of these fictional personas. I will certainly look to write a follow-up, targeting a few strategies I’ve used (and ask how others have used) to shape better behavior, to make the standup a more positive experience.

      Reply
  12. James

    Good article Derek. We find only positive results since we started using Stand Up Meetings. It cuts down our hours of lengthy meeting into a mere 15 minute status update meeting improving our team efficiency. BTW, we are using it online, on http://www.standup.report

    Thanks

    Reply