Years ago I worked at a Japanese real estate management company in Los Angeles. The employees were a mixture of ethnicities, but the overarching business culture was Japanese. Each morning we started work in the same place, at the same time, in a circle facing each other for a traditional Japanese chorei. For a reason that was never clear, I was deemed the “Ohayou Gozaimasu” guy and was tasked with running the meeting.
The meeting followed the same pattern every day. Everyone gathered at attention, the Ohayou Gozaimasu guy (me) said “Ohayou Gozaimasu” and bowed. Everyone replied “Ohayou Gozaimasu” and bowed in unison. I would then give a quick overview of the day’s events before asking the company president to speak. Masuda-san could talk for as little as 10 seconds or as long as 10 minutes on topics as mundane as the office coffee to those as critical as the upcoming visit of an executive from Tokyo. When he was finished, and it wasn’t always clear that he was finished, I nodded and the group chanted “Otsukaresama deshita,” meaning “thank you in advance for your hard work,” and bowed once more.
Focused Morning Meeting for Project Teams
Years later, in March of 2000 we instituted morning stand-up at Digital Foundry. Instead of the entire company getting together, we broke up into project teams and gathered in a development bay to start the day. These were the days of waterfall development when our project managers worked off of detailed functional specification and technical design documents to deliver enterprise-level custom software. The DF morning meetings of the time served to move the implementation plan forward by locking down tasks from the previous day and then assigning new tasks. The meeting was run by the project manager and was completely internal. Digital Foundry’s clients looked forward to weekly status calls and reports to keep them abreast of the project’s progress.
Daily Scrum Means Everyone Is up to Speed
Digital Foundry adopted Agile Methodology around 2006. Our transition was helped by the fact that the regular morning meeting was already an integral part of our culture. Our PMs quickly discovered that the presence of the product owner from the client side meant that daily accountability was now shared in real time. Instead of waiting for weekly updates on progress, product owners help set expectations and celebrate wins on a daily basis.
At Digital Foundry the daily scrum starts each team’s work day. Each team member gets a chance to state their achievements from the previous day, their tasks for the current day, and finish by pointing out any impediments. The superset of impediments becomes the primary task for the project manager immediately following the meeting.
At Digital Foundry our culture celebrates change that makes life better for our clients. Right now we think our daily scrum is the best way to start each day, but we are always looking for ways to improve our internal and external communications.