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Beware of this status update

Patricio Mac Adden
Mar 8th, 2023

In our previous two posts, we discussed why communication matters and what’s the best status update. In this post, we will analyze a very common pattern of communication and how we can prevent it from becoming a problem.

More than once we were present at daily standups where one of the junior developers would give poor status updates, in the line that he is working on a certain ticket and that it’s going to be finished soon. Opposite to the best status update, this could be considered the worst status update, as it doesn’t tell specifics about the work that’s being done, it doesn’t tell others if there are any blockers and it’s not giving a clear plan for getting it done.

In a team where there are different profiles and experiences, people might think a certain task is easy or difficult depending on their context. This means that for a senior developer is an easy task, for a junior developer that same task might be complex and take a long time. A Project Manager or a Product Owner, on the other hand, is more likely focused on results, and not really on the concrete progress of a task.

The reasons for a developer to give the worst status update are numerous. Could be shyness, lack of confidence, or just that he doesn’t have the experience to give the best status update yet.

So, how do we deal with these situations?

The first thing we do is to encourage the developer who is communicating poorly to follow the best status update guidelines. Either because of shyness, or lack of confidence, it’s important to boost his confidence and explain why status updates are important. Remember, they’re not about control, they’re about collaboration.

The second thing we can do, as team members, is to ask questions. It’s a rule of thumb not to wait until something becomes a problem. For example, as a Project Manager one is focused on results. That is, on finishing a productive sprint and delivering real value to the Product Owner. And after getting the worst status update day after day, one might start getting worried about productivity and start assuming the wrong things. Not asking the right questions at the right time will contribute to productivity problems.

As you might guess, the questions should be about what the developer did yesterday, what the developer will do today, and if he’s got any blockers. As we saw in the best status update answering these questions will make the developer transparent about the process and it will help adkust expectations, planning, and building a healthy relationship with the team and customer.

After all, communication matters.