Leadership-Standup Questions

As more leaders and people in management organize themselves into teams working at coordination and strategy “flight” levels, they — like the operational teams they support — use daily standup/flow-planning meetings. While the goal is the same — to collaboratively plan flow for the day — the questions may differ, since the levels at which they’re working are different.

So what do standup meetings at coordination and strategy levels look like? Here are some questions that you may ask yourself and your fellow leaders:

  • What process,  meeting or organizational policy can I make more psychologically safe today?  One of the most important jobs for a leader at any level is to promote psychological safety. Hear the voice of Edwards Deming whispering in your ear: “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” (Sometimes, because of voice-silence asymmetry, that might actually mean not attending a meeting if you’re not sure that your presence will promote safety.)
  • Where are silos occurring?  Where are handoffs between teams and processes happening? When you’re a leader working at a coordination or strategy flight level, you have a wider-lens view on flow. With that vantage point, always be looking for organizational-refactoring opportunities that will lead to better end-to-end flow.
  • What failure do I need to learn from and share to set an example for others? If we want our colleagues at the operational level to be free to admit and learn from mistakes, leaders at other flight levels need to set the example. What public-service announcement might you write? What learning would you like to share with someone other than those at your same flight level?
  • Where has it been a while since I just actually saw where work was being done and value created? Leaders need to spend time “going and seeing” in a psychologically safe way so that they can actually remove friction in the lives of our colleagues. One group that I worked with kept a lightweight gemba-walk chart in their obeya and incorporated it as a regular part of their coordination-level standup.
  • What decisions am I planning to make that others could make? If that question makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself what is driving that feeling and perhaps fear that you need to be the one making those decisions. To use David Marquet’s two pillars for distributing control, perhaps you need to be clearer about your vision. Or perhaps you fear a lack of competency in your colleagues. What competencies are our colleagues needing in order to do what we’re asking them and that they’re aspiring to do?
  • Whose coaching invitation might I seek today? As modern leaders try to spend increasing amounts of their time coaching and pushing decision-making downward, they need to respect the need to be invited rather than force themselves on their colleagues. However, it’s possible to seek an invitation by being safely present and available (see the next question) and showing up as something other than a boss.
  • What meetings am I planning to attend that I may not truly be needed at, and how can I create more space in my day to be available to others? If you’re justifying your existence by attending meetings, it’s likely that you’re assuming too much decision-making authority or simply not providing much value to the organization. Moreover, you’re not going to be available when someone pulls the metaphorical andon cord and needs management support. Your time is better spent developing others; as Noel Tichy writes in The Leadership Engine, “The ultimate test for a leader is not whether he or she makes smart decisions and takes decisive action, but whether he or she teaches others to be leaders and builds an organization that can sustain its success even when he or she is not around.”

One thought on “Leadership-Standup Questions

  1. Pingback: Food for Agile Thought #237: Work From Home Is Here to Stay, OKRs & COVID-19, Innovation Frameworks, Customer Development from the Building - Agile Coaching Hub

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