Try Daily Stand-Ups For Law Firm Project Management

by rocketmatter-admin March 28, 2013

I discovered daily stand-ups, the Agile method used by software developers, when I started at Rocket Matter, a legal technology company. How I wish I knew about this practice back when I was heading up law firm library and continuing legal education departments.
Here’s how it works:
Team members hold face-to-face meetings at the same time every day. Ideally, in the morning. Meetings last no more than 15 minutes so keep it short and on-point — the reason everyone stands up. If the team is too big and unwieldy, separate into areas of speciality. For instance, if the law library is staffed by more than eight people (a rarity in law firms these days), have separate stand-ups for groups based on speciality, like “reference” or “technology.” Or, have project-specific, cross-department stand-ups; like a group consisting of members from the marketing, library, records, and IT departments working on a competitive intelligence or knowledge management initiative. A team of lawyers can also hold daily stand-up meetings for cases or projects they’re working on.

The objective of daily stand-ups is not to solve problems or resolve issues, but to provide a status and progress update to the team.

During stand-up meetings, team members report to each other by answering three questions only:

  1. What did I accomplish yesterday?
  2. What are my tasks for today?
  3. What’s in my way? – If a particular task is dependent on another person or event.

Winging it leads to rambling and is inconsiderate to your fellow team members. Prepare like you would for a meeting. Write down your list of tasks, etc – preferably at the end of the day before you go home or at night before heading to bed. Evernote is a good tool to use for this. I have a “stand-up” notebook which syncs with my phone and keeps me on track during stand-ups.
Answering the first question, “what did I accomplish yesterday,” provides members with an opportunity to talk about unanticipated issues that needed to be resolved and report on completed tasks. However, if this adds too much time to the meetings, scrap it. Remember, daily stand-ups are all about brevity and succinctness. Don’t let it become a daily chore instead of a productive exercise. It’s more important for the team to know what everyone’s working on that day so everyone’s in sync.
If you have team members who are working remotely, fire up Skype or GoToMeeting and beam them in. As a mostly work-from-home guy, daily GoToMeeting, Brady-Bunch type stand-ups are particularly meaningful to me: I get to see and interact with my team every day, know what they’re up to, chart the progress of projects, and remain focused and on-task.
Daily stand-ups also hold each team member accountable. No one wants to slack off on the list of tasks they identified the previous day since it is shared the next day as being completed.
Finally, here are 7 common daily stand-up mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
RELATED POSTS:
Agile Software Development Lessons For Law Firms
If A Standup Desk Is Great For A Legal Software Exec, It’s Gotta Be Great For Lawyers.
App Of The Week: You Don’t Have To Be In The Office To GoToMeeting

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