When we think or talk about the Scrum framework, probably the first picture that comes to our mind is a group of professionals standing in front of a whiteboard daily for 15 mins. Scrum calls this meeting as ‘Daily Scrum’. Some teams also call this as ‘Daily stand-up’ or ‘Daily Huddle’ but I will stick to the language as described in the Scrum Guide.
Probably, it is the most popular Scrum event. However, there are still many misunderstandings around it and many teams don’t get the best out of it. Few teams even start considering these daily 15 mins as a wasteful activity and start ditching it.
This article is about uncovering some of those myths and discuss some useful tips that can re-energise your Daily Scrum and make it more effective.
Before directly jumping onto these misunderstandings/techniques, I would like to provide a summary of the Daily Scrum.
What Is The Daily Scrum
The Daily Scrum is one of the 5 Scrum events and the most frequent one. It is a key Inspect and Adapt event that allows identifying undesired deviations in an early stage itself.
Purpose: Inspect the progress towards Sprint Goal and trend towards Sprint Forecast & Backlog
Output: Plan for next 24 hours, further detailed discussions, updated Sprint Backlog
Timebox: 15 mins
When: Daily- preferably at the same time and same location to bring consistency.
Who Must Attend: All Development Team members. Scrum Master not mandatory but needs to coach the development team around how to facilitate it.
If you are new to the Scrum, it would be worth reading the Scrum Guide:
Daily Scrum Supports Empiricism
Empiricism is core to the Scrum. Every Scrum event enables transparency and is an opportunity for inspection and adaptation. The Daily Scrum is not an exception.
Transparency: Daily Scrum makes sure that the team is discussing ‘what is going on’ at least once a day. They discuss what they are doing to achieve the Sprint Goal and are there any impediments to their progress. This increases transparency within the team.
Inspection: Daily Scrum ensures that inspection of Development Team progress towards Sprint Goal is taking place daily.
Adaptation: Output of Inspection is required adjustments if any. Daily Scrum reveals impediments such as blockers, lack of self-organization/collaboration, lack of understanding, changes to estimations, lack of skills, dependencies etc. This allows the Scrum Team to plan adjustments to help the Development Team in delivering the highest possible value product.
Key Benefits of Daily Scrum
If used as its intended purpose, the Daily Scrum provides immense benefits.
Though the Daily Scrum has a clear purpose, there are still many myths. I have listed a few of them below:
Myth 1: Daily Scrum is a Status Meeting.
Truth: During a status meeting, individuals provide an update on the progress of their assigned tasks to another person who is generally a person with higher authority such as team lead, manager, etc.
Daily Scrum is not a status meeting. Here the aim is to create transparency about what is going on and inspect the progress towards Sprint Goal and adapt accordingly. Considering this as a status meeting causes a lack of transparency and focus from the Sprint Goal will be lost.
Myth 2: Scrum Master’s responsibility is to facilitate the Daily Scrum.
Truth: Scrum Master is responsible to make sure the event is taking place and coaching the team to make the best out of it. If the team is new to the Scrum, Scrum Master would take the ‘teacher’ stance and tell the team the intended purpose of it and how to keep it within 15 mins. But, Development Team owns this meeting. Scrum Master is optional and only there to serve them.
Myth 3: Daily Scrum is only about answering 3 questions ;
What did you do Yesterday? What I am going to do today? Are there any impediments?
Truth: Answering to 3 questions is only one of the ways to achieve this purpose. Even these 3 questions got updated with more focus on the team’s shared goal i.e. Sprint Goal.
- What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
- What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal
- Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?
Development Team can decide the structure that suits them best to meet the intended purpose i.e. inspect the progress towards Sprint Goal.
Structure of Daily Scrum is set by Development Team- Scrum Guide.
Myth 4: Team members can only discuss impediments/progress during the Daily Scrum.
Truth: Daily Scrum provides an opportunity for the team to regroup as a minimum every 24 hours. If a team has got urgent issues, blockers, or opportunities to discuss; then the team needs not to wait till the Daily Scrum. They can collaborate as and when needed/required.
Myth 5: It has to be a ‘Stand-Up’.
Truth: NO, teams can facilitate Daily Scrum while sitting on their chair, lying in the bed in the other corner of the world. They can choose whatever suits them best.
What about if we are not co-located: Distributed teams are a reality. Face to Face is indeed the best way to communicate but it is not possible when the team is distributed. Hence, teams need to learn how to work best within this constraint.
Not having a collocated team can’t be an excuse to not have Daily Scrum.
Below are a few tips that have helped me/my teams in facilitating Daily Scrum. This list is very practical which you can apply immediately.
Note: This is my opinion based on experience. As product development is a complex domain, techniques that have worked well for one team, may not work for other teams. There is no silver bullet.
- Walk The Board- Top to Down
Instead of asking for individual inputs, ask team members to provide updates while talking at the board. It is more useful if the scrum board is in priority order.
This technique filters out any unnecessary information that is not linked to the purpose of the Daily Scrum. For example: “Yesterday, I had a 1:1 meeting with my line manager” Or “Today, I will be taking interviews for new starters” etc. I have seen many individuals who try to give the timeline of what they did yesterday or what they are going to do today. Many of these statements are not linked to Sprint Goal or Sprint Backlog.
To maintain the focus and common interest, it is important to filter out conversations that are not supporting the purpose.
2. Use the Sprint Burndown Charts
Sprint Burndown charts provide useful information about how the trend is looking to meet the Sprint Goal. It increases transparency by visualising the team’s collective progress. It is something that can be a great tool for the team to self-organise and identify deviations as early as possible.
For more about Burndown Charts please click Burndown Charts
Tip: I would advise teams to have the Sprint Burn-down Chart as part of the Scrum Board so that team members can have a look at it during Daily Scrum and self-organise themselves.
3. Make it Fun- Improv Games
Active listening is an absolute key to a successful Daily Scrum. During my initial days as a Scrum Master, I struggled to improve active listening for team members. Then, I came across Improv Games via book Scrum Mastery. These games bring fun quotient while improving the team’s collaboration and listening skills.
For example First Letter, Last Letter. In this game, each person must start their sentence with the last letter of the last word of the previous speaker. To make it more interesting, select the speaker randomly. This game will encourage team members to be attentive and will help them to develop listening skills.
To learn more about Improv Games, you can use the following link:
This improv exercise was originally seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway? CH4, on British Television, but manipulated into…www.tastycupcakes.org
4. Be Disruptive
Daily Scrum should happen at the same time and the same place as consistency reduces complexity. But, sometimes it is good to bend these rules for a larger purpose to make this meeting exciting and fun.
Few of the things that I tried and worked well-
a) Bored Buzzer: Many teams have got least one person who likes to give an update in more than required detail or use technical jargon that not all team members can interpret well. During one meet-up, someone introduced me to the Bored Buzzer.
In this, any member can press that when a team member is going lengths or using jargon.
Tip: this should not be used to new team members as it might discourage people to open up and transparency would be lost.
b) Others’ Style: Ask team members to deliver an update in other team member’s styles.
I was a bit sceptical about this initially but when the team used it, they all had fun while still meeting the purpose of the meeting.
c) Walk the Talk: Occasionally when it is great weather outside, having a Daily Scrum while walking can be a great way to enjoy this crucial meeting.
5. Bring Product Owner/Senior Stakeholders
Sound a bit radical but I have used this when one of the teams I worked for became matured enough in facilitating Daily Scrum by themselves. I aimed to understand the level of transparency & trust the team has got with the Product Owner.
I observed that the team was only giving positive updates and was hiding issues in front of the Product Owner. My smell alert kicked off and I could sense that the team doesn’t trust the Product Owner with issues. This gave an objective to me to work with the Development team and Product Owner to improve their relationship which is key for value delivery.
Caution: Don’t use this technique if the team is new to Scrum and hasn’t reached to a level of maturity. Let the team build the trust among each other first before involving anyone with authority.
Scrum Masters, it is your responsibility to build a trust between Product Owner and Development team. Without trust, there will be a lack in the transparency and right inspection and adaptation can’t take place.
Daily Scrum serves a much bigger purpose and increases the probability to meet the Sprint Goal. It reminds the team about the shared goal and improves the focus.
I hope you have enjoyed the article. Please share some techniques which you have tried and worked/not worked for your team. I would appreciate some feedback as well.