When the stand-up meeting is just a moment to report the work to the boss.

Teams that are moving from a non-agile way of work to an agile way are under risk of bringing bad habits to the new world. One common flaw is the ‘Report to Boss’ standup.

Report to boss

In the Report To Boss Anti-Pattern, the team’s members are not focused on the project progress. The team members are mainly concerned with giving a good report to the boss. In this mode, team members speak looking directly to the boss. Sometimes they don’t even care if the others team members are able to listen to what they are saying. The whole stand up meeting becomes a public individual report to the boss. It’s also common that the team members ask the boss to give them the next task. Sometimes the lack of autonomy is so high that the team members cannot determine the priority of their own task.

Disadvantages

The Report To Boss anti-pattern is just a symptom of some critical problems underneath.

Lack of self-organization

Self-organization arises from a team that has autonomy to determine its next tasks. A team should not wait for the boss to determine their next task. I’m not saying that the boss (or PO, or customer, or manager, or ‘you name it’) should not determine priority. But once determined, the team should determine how to best perform the work. Without self-organization, all the improvements are expected to come from a single mind: the boss! If the boss cannot solve the problem(s), it is not uncommon that he will be able to blame someone else. In this situation, nobody is caring about the goals anymore.

Comfort

The agile methods are provocative. They move people out of their comfort zone. It’s outside the comfort zone where we have the best ability to innovate. Sometimes the team members are comfortable with the boss taking all the responsibility. Some team members want to keep they responsibilities as small as possible . Letting the boss alone take all the important decisions by himself. One of eXtreme Programming value is courage. XP defines courage as:

We will tell the truth about progress and estimates. We don’t document excuses for failure because we plan to succeed. We don’t fear anything because no one ever works alone. We will adapt to changes whenever they happen.”

The inverse of courage is ‘comfort’.

Unhealthy Environment

This is the worst prejudice in my humble opinion. There are two scenarios: The boss wants to concentrate all the power. The team members don’t want to share responsibility. These scenarios are not mutually exclusive. Both scenarios lead to unhealthy environments where people will work to not be guilty.

Solutions

The first step is to identify if this anti-pattern is happening in your team and make it visible. When you identify the root causes you can then try to find a plan to mitigate the root cause. Some actions that I have seen to mitigate this problem are:

Rotate the the person who facilitates the Stand-Up

Try to move people out of their comfort zone. Make sure that you are doing it in a safe way, the goal is to make people see more than their solo task. But if you have some introverts in the team who don’t want to facilitate any session respect that.

Ask the boss to change his behaviour

If possible talk to the boss about this problem and its prejudices. Sometimes the boss is not even noticing that the problem is happening.

Retrospective

If possible, bring this problem to the next retrospective and discuss it with the team. Some people are so used to micro-management that they just can’t see that this is happening. If the retrospective session is not enough to discuss the pros and cons try to set up a brown bag.