Project Management Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for project managers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm experiencing persisting pain in the back, and it's medically proved that it's present and that it will never improve but only degrade. I can stand for 5-10 minutes before the pain starts to be unbearable. My whole team is totally aware of the situation.

Needless to say then that a stand-up meeting that is longer than 5 minutes (which happens rather often) is like a suffering to me and soon turns into a torture. Yet when I'm looking for a chair, my team (both the PM and my colleagues) insists I keep standing up, and the social pressure makes it hard for me to sit.

I've never read any book nor followed any scrum training so I don't know the first thing about it (I'm practicing it following the current, one would say). Therefore I'm asking you what does agile/scrum suggest in my case?

share|improve this question
6  
Wtf? When I think some people cannot do more stupid and irresponsible things by hiding behind agile practices, there comes a story like this. – Zsolt Feb 16 at 11:00
4  
While I sympthaise, this question also amuses me. Your team adhires strictly to the artifacts of scrum (standups), but has a PM, so probably has missed the actual point of self organising teams. – Nathan Cooper Feb 16 at 12:08
8  
This is not a project management question. It may be a workplace.SE question, it is probably a human rights question. If your self-organizing team demands that you perform actions that put you in pain and are damaging to your health, you should consult your HR department, your lawyer and your headhunter before you consult PM:SE. Please have a discussion with your PM and inform him that if he can't understand "reasonable accommodation", civil rights and basic humanity, that HR will explain it to him. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 16 at 13:10
2  
Forgive me for the hard "shoulds" - I shouldn't have been quite so preachy and I shouldn't have assumed that you haven't explored these things. The notion that someone would come across this question and assume that asking a team member to endure pain is part of either project management or a normal work environment makes me a bit ... cranky. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 16 at 15:20
3  
What would they do if you were in a wheelchair: drag you out of it or sack you for being unable to stand? They're just absurd, and regardless of methodology all you should have to say is "I cannot stand for this long, I must sit". I doubt that any formal statement of scrum methodology will explicitly say, "don't be an idiot and don't break the law on reasonable accommodations for the physical capabilities of your team members", but maybe someone will come up with a reference. – Steve Jessop Feb 16 at 18:00
up vote 16 down vote accepted

Hope some of these work for you and you start getting relief – and respect. I'll tell you my experience first and how I made the best of it, and then I have a game plan for you to do first thing tomorrow.

TL;DR: Skip to the Last Section - Game Plan

My Very Similar Situation: 5-Minutes in Stand-Up Hell

My last company was amazing, I joined a small startup of 12 always going for the newest proven agile process. So of course when I started (about 5 years ago), stand-ups were IN.

Same thing as you – once I hit 5 minutes exactly, I cannot physically stand anymore. Those 5 minutes ruin my entire day, making any position, even seated at my desk (for the next 12 hours) unbearable.

The actions I took to get through the stand-up (and improve my quality of life in general) were:

1. Taking care of myself and getting proper back treatment: I see an amazing group of doctors for physical therapy, pain management, injections, etc.

2. On my first day, I told my supervisor (and then all my colleagues) the facts:

Just a heads-up for stand-up meetings so that I don't come off as unprofessional or uninterested in our morning brainstorm and update sessions: I have a back problem that prevents me from standing for more than 5 minutes.

(People rarely think that's a real thing, so sometimes we both laugh and I say, "no, really though."

I do a, b, and c to manage my pain and stay healthy. In order to maintain the progress I make, I won't be standing in stand-up meetings, but I will DEFINITELY be a top participator. Just wanted you to know why. Thanks for your understanding!

3. In the meetings themselves: I made it a point to do everything I could to be:

  • Prepared and On-Time: Obviously everyone should be. But being in an outsider-type position already, this is key. Up-to-date on all current releases and major issues, and prepared with concise and pertinent updates to give.
  • Present and Respectful: Made sure to be an active listener and participator, whether or not I had had coffee yet.
  • Positive and Source to Pump up Team: Humor and sarcasm are my go-to defense mechanisms anyway, so I let those fly when appropriate, but mostly do my best to bring in positive energy.
  • Physical Positive Energy Source: Along with that note, I always say up straight, right in the middle of things. It's very important not to be outside the circle, sitting 3 feet behind everyone. You can't be shy about loudly pulling a chair across the room. Plus, once you do it a few times and everyone understands, everyone joins in including you in one way or another. Switching up the location, offering me a stool, or saving me the window ledge. I'd also bounce on my yoga ball or balance on a desk.

As a team everyone worked to make the stand-ups more efficient and fun.

  • We were always tweaking them – constantly making process and content changes, often switched up the location. We also introduced a sort of "pass the totem" exercise with toys and awards around the office. (And yes, the awards were also toys).

I know I was lucky to work for such a great start-up that kept its culture as it grew exponentially. It sounds like one of two things is happening with you.

  1. Your team is not so great, and you are not so lucky. Time to make a change.
  2. You haven't been extremely direct, honest, and demanding of the working conditions you NEED to function.

If there's a chance you maybe mumbled, or said "I have trouble standing for 10 or 20 minutes," or (the most likely) you keep letting them tell you to stand, then this is on you.

And that sucks. Especially since you probably did none of those things, yet you are being treated this way. And it sucks more for women, and you need to speak twice as loud with not even a trace of what could be construed as "emotion" or "bossiness" or the ever-loved "bitchiness."

So here's my game plan for you

  1. Avoid the daggers and social pressure and bullshit that occur when you hit your limit and desperately search for a chair. Get to stand-up 5 minutes early tomorrow. Find a chair and place it right in the normal area. Happily greet people as they roll in.
  2. Have a one-on-one with your supervisor telling him your version of what I said in my #2 above. You physically cannot stand, it's no reflection on how you feel about your team or your level of involvement. Tell him being pressured to stand doesn't just make you feel disrespected and less likely to get involved during the meeting, but the pain literally ruins your entire day and therefore productivity decreases for the whole work day. Describe all the ways that you will bring a, b, c (akin to my #3 list) to every meeting.
  3. If after conversations with him and your other colleagues, you don't find yourself in a haven like I described, it's time to update that résumé. (And possibly sue HR, although I have no knowledge on how that process would go).

Good luck and I wish you as much pain relief as possible!

P.S.: Do they not get that Agile and Scrum are all about constantly making changes to become more efficient – and NEVER sticking to hard and fast rules for the sake of "that's how it's always been"? A tad ironic that they really have a problem with body position for 5 minutes of all things.

Agile and Rigidity do not work.

share|improve this answer

Your team mates know that you have this condition, and it is painful to you to stand, so leave the team. It is a basic human behaviour not to harm each other, and clearly they do and cause you pain. If you cannot leave the team take a chair and sit. They don't care about you, and you should care about yourself. You don't really have a team there anyway.

The stand-up does not necessarily mean to stand up, it is more likely to get away from your computer and other people for 15 minutes and share your thoughts with your team. They can sit down as well.

You should go and see a different doctor.

share|improve this answer

The reason for a "stand up" is to differentiate it from your normal meeting situation.

To keep that non-normal atmosphere, you could get a bar stool and sit down on that during your stand-up. It will be sufficiently different from your normal sitting behavior to make a visible difference, but still be on eye level with the standing people. Hopefully it will be convenient enough for you to not experience any pain. Put it beneath your SCRUM board and you should be fine.

bar stool

share|improve this answer

I'm not in any way a scrum expert, but the stand-up should be short and focussed.

Therefore it should be distraction-free as far as possible, and you shouldn't need to move around during it. I would say, then, that the main thing from a methodology point of view is that rather than looking around for a chair once the pain becomes unbearable (distracting yourself most of all and to some extent others), you should sit right from the start.

As nvoigt says, the best is to find the highest seat you can practically use, to match everyone else's eye-height. Sit on a desk perhaps, if that's sufficiently comfortable for you. Doesn't have to be exact, since it's well-established that people differing in height by well over a foot can nevertheless scrum together effectively ;-) This part of the methodology is very resilient: provided everyone is in the same room, paying attention, and more or less facing each other, the meeting can go ahead fine.

Standing does help motivate people keep it short, but it's not the only way. So you also need to make sure you aren't "abusing" your sitting position to speak for longer than you should or to drag things into extended discussions.

Hopefully once you've identified your seat this will become routine, and either you can arrive to the standup each day on time with your seat already sorted, or you can arrive very shortly before it and move your seat into place. If it helps your colleagues then you could stand while you yourself are speaking.

If your colleagues continue to "insist you stand up" once you've done these things to ensure the meeting continues smoothly, then methodology is irrelevant, they are committing a serious offence against you that HR may have to solve through tougher discipline against them. If you've been assessed as able to stand for at most 5-10 minutes, and the meeting is timeboxed to (say) 15 minutes, then that means you cannot stand for it and they should not ask you to. End of discussion.

By the way this could also be your routine in general, for standups, ad hoc corridor conversations, giving presentations, and any other occasion where most of your colleagues would normally stand. Rather than fighting a constant battle of social pressure as to how long you can bear to stand and how much pain it is right for you to experience, always make a move to sit if it looks like it might be more than 5 minutes. Use phrases like "I'm sorry, I can't stand any longer", or "Please come to my desk to continue the conversation: I need to sit now because of my back pain". Start to move as you say them, and remain friendly but don't accept contradiction. It's your medical condition, they don't get to decide what's worth you standing for.


Barely-relevant anecdote: I saw BB King in concert in 2004, and he opened by saying, "I'm 79 years old and they say I can sit if I want to. Well, I want to". Not "do you mind if I look for a seat now?", or "I'm afraid in 5 minutes time I'm going to have to move to a chair", just "I'm entitled to sit, and here I am sitting". Not that anybody at the gig would have begrudged him sitting no matter what he said, but it's much harder to socially pressure someone who's already done the thing you'd prefer them not to do! It's also harder to disagree with someone who appeals to some kind of authority: "they say I can sit". In your case "they" are your doctor and whatever arrangements you've made with HR to accommodate you. "They" say you can and should sit, so no matter how much you'd like to stand, you need to sit.

share|improve this answer
1  
Thanks for pointing out the "need". I never used that word at work. I'll try and go with it ;) – Olivier Grégoire Feb 16 at 20:29

Get yourself a cane seat to sit on during the meeting. If your associates continue to object, you can beat them with it. Stand-up suppliment

share|improve this answer

I have worked in several Scrum teams over the years and have also having been Scrum Certified. Scrum is designed to be a guide and not a hard, "it must be done this way" kind of process. Each team can work the process to a best fit for them. Some teams I've worked on would have "sit downs" instead of "stand ups". This worked for that team and still accomplished the necessary tasks. The Scrum ceremonies are there to assist in the process of completing the work in an efficient manner.

Not all teams do stand-ups, not all teams use a physical board with sticky notes, not all teams do exactly as Scrum suggests. This is because it is a suggestion. I would suggest that you and your team discuss this issue with your back and ways to work around it. This is what the Retrospective ceremony is for. If standing up is a problem for you, then suggest a sit-down instead, for example. Or, maybe everyone is seated and stands up to give their status. The process is still being adhered to and also relieves your pain.

Scrum, on any given team, is a work-in-progress. Most teams I've worked with started "by the book". But, after a couple of sprints, the process was adjusted slightly to work better for the team. This is what happens during the Retrospective ceremony. By sprint 20 or so, the process became a well oiled machine, so to speak, for the team and it was not strictly "by the book".

share|improve this answer

For over a year I was one of 3 PMs at our daily scrum.

Since I also can't stand for long periods of time, I would sit for parts of it; especially the few minutes before and after I had to get up and take the lead on my project.

Even while standing I would often lean against a wall.

The entire idea of standing is to keep it short, not to cause pain. Don't use your comfortable chair (or whatever you decide to sit on, as per the other answers) to drag on the meeting. And make sure to stand when talking, and if possible, when spoken to.

If anybody says anything to you, and they don't (want to) understand that you suffer from back pain, then send a short note to HR describing the problem, and CC the culprit and his supervisor.

As a side note: What would the team do if somebody was wheelchair bound? Or was hobbling around on crutches? Would they also insist they stand the entire time?

Part of teamwork - that issue that always seems to come up in every interview - is taking other people into consideration. I remember having to redo dozens of Post-It notes on the Kanban board because somebody was partially color blind and couldn't see what was written on certain colors.

share|improve this answer

The point of a stand up meeting is to make sure that the meeting doesn't drag on - it's an intrinsically uncomfortable situation, so people won't settle in and chat around topics for an hour when 15 minutes will do.

In your case there should obviously be an exception made, and others have already mentioned how ridiculous your colleagues are being, so I won't. However to get to the heart of the standup issue I'd say you should just make sure your contributions are fast and to the point. This fulfills the point of standup 100%.

Also - yeah, what is a PM doing at a standup!?

share|improve this answer

This is what your Scrum Master is for. He should be removing impediments for the team members, and if one impediment to your efficiency is the pain caused by standing, then he should deal with that. As others have pointed out, Scrum is a guideline, not a rulebook. Modify it to suit your circumstances.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.