How do we stop talking about issue numbers and start talking about what matters?

How do we stop talking about issue numbers and start talking about what matters?

This question revolves around the Daily Standup and the too-common situation where people talk a bit like this:

Yesterday I worked on PROJ-2342 and got pretty far with it. Today, I will look at PROJ-4223, except when my help is needed on PROJ-2323.

Typical dysfunctional standup

Talking about ticket numbers, like the ones autogenerated by JIRA, is mostly useless. Even on small teams, no one has all the ticket numbers and their contents present and can actually follow along when these ticket numbers are being raised - even highly skilled Product Owners will find it very hard to immediately connect the ticket numbers to the contents of said ticket.

The Standup Is Not A Status Update

More often than not, the root cause of updates like these is a misconception about what the standup is about. A surprisingly huge amount of people believe that the standup is a status update, where everyone talks about what they did yesterday and what they are going to do today. So they are doing it exactly like that: They are reporting which items they have worked on.

But the Standup is not a status update. It’s a collaboration towards a common goal. During the planning, the team has found a goal which seemed realistic to them at that point, and every day, the team comes together to inspect the progress so far and adapt the plan for the remaining time.

In that context, mentioning the ticket numbers makes no sense at all. Every ticket has a context in relation to the overall sprint goal, which might not be apparent even from the ticket. For example, a ticket might be “the risky one” or “a big one”, so they need to get special attention and treatment. Regardless of the context a team usually attaches to a ticket, it’s this context that should be mentioned, because it relates to the overall plan.

Getting there

You stop mentioning issue numbers by stopping to mention task numbers. Make it a rule in the retro. Hold each other accountable. Make a game out of it, have someone call it out. Make it fun and light-hearted, and keep the team focussed on the actual goal of the daily standup.

This post is part of the Product Owner Q&A series.