The Daily Scrum
Note: This is one in a continuing series of posts re Scrum Intro. The preceding post is here.
Scrum has a daily team meeting that we call the Daily Scrum or the Daily Standup. The maximum timebox is 15 minutes. If the team is seven people, the minimum timebox is seven minutes. The whole team attends. Others may attend, but they must be silent during the meeting.
Note: The Scrum Guide implies to some that the PO should not attend. Jeff Sutherland has clarified this. You are still doing Scrum if the PO does not attend, but he recommends that the PO attend.
The team answers the three questions:
- What did I do or get done yesterday?
- What will I do or get done today?
- What is my biggest impediment?
The Scrum Guide mentions that the actions should be about the Sprint goal. So, for example, you do not get to talk in this meeting about your shopping yesterday. We recommend that everyone in the team answer the three questions. Everyone has to get naked, so to speak. Everyone has to reveal the truth, and all within 15 minutes.
This can be trouble. The Implementers may feel, at first, that the actions of the PO are irrelevant. So, the SM might take time at some point to explain it to them, explain how essential the PO is to success. Or, one way or another, the PO might do the same.
They all win together or they all lose together. It is only together that they can achieve real success.
Why the biggest impediment?
We find one of the biggest problems is no problem — usually expressed as “no impediments.” People want to pretend that they themselves are perfect and that the world around them is perfect.
There are some who wish to wallow in problems and worries all the time, too, but in the Daily Scrum we want to hear the biggest impediments quickly. It is likely that one of the seven will be important enough for the SM to work on immediately today.
This brings up the problem of honesty. Humans are not always as honest as we would like. One specific area: Each person tends not be completely forthcoming about his or her own weaknesses.
Now, we don’t need to hear about everything, particularly non-work stuff, but work-related “areas for improvement” are important with Scrum.
Now we get to a key issue — What is the purpose of the Daily Scrum?
One answer is to enable the team to sync up so that they complete all the stories during the Sprint. This is true as far as it goes.
I think a better way of putting it is that this is a meeting for all the members of the team to quickly get the information they need so any and all of them can then help the team self-organize, self-manage and self-direct themselves to a higher level of success.
This means the meeting is for all of them. This means they all should be listening the whole time and interested. This means that they all have leadership responsibility. This means that any of them can take the information and act on it. One can suggest “we are in deep trouble.” Another could say: “I think our biggest impediment is X.” Another could say: “I think they best way to fix that is Y.” Another could say: “I’ll help fix that.” They all should be using the meeting. They all are adults, and can lead in some way.
The meeting becomes different and better when they see the value of the meeting. It is not a status meeting so that Akbar, the former PM renamed to SM, can get a status update and micro-manage the team. No one loves to go to status update meetings, but they all should be deeply interested in improving the team’s level of success.
It is important that the Daily Scrum be short (no more than 15 minutes). At first, this is commonly a problem. The SM is responsible that it is short, and must act, with many to most teams, to keep it short.
You might need some rules:
- No talking about stuff outside this product
- No discussing impediments, and especially solutions to impediments, in any detail
- No more than two minutes per person (but at least one minute per person)
- No talking by managers (during the Daily Scrum)
There are a bunch of skill sets related to running a good meeting. We will not repeat tips and tricks here, but the SM must learn them and get the team to do this meeting well. We think it starts if the team agrees on a common mission, wants to achieve it and then sees this meeting as a joint meeting to help them be more successful.
One should note: Some teams have a too-short Daily Scrum. Even more common is that a few people give their updates way too quickly (although the team may still take close to 15 minutes). First, each person should speak for at least one minute. Secondly, everyone should be listening, and should want to use the information, at least in one way or another. So, any time you feel as if you don’t understand what the person said or what the context is, you must say so — seek clarification.
Note on managers: The first rule is that managers (or the “involved” more generally) can not speak during the Daily Scrum. Later, once the managers understand the rule and the purpose of the rule, I think it is typically good when managers talk briefly. A manager could say, “Could you repeat that please?” or, “I’ll help you with that impediment right after the meeting. Let’s talk.” Those kinds of comments can be very useful, so long as they are short.
It is true that the tasks being discussed are small (two to four hours each, normally), and that that is micro-management in a way. Fair.
The key difference is that team is micro-managing themselves. They are not being micro-managed by someone outside the team. Also, we must discuss that “things change every day,” “stuff happens” and “to predict is difficult, particularly of the future.” That is, every person will find that a small task “promised” one morning will not always get done by the next morning. So, a blame game attitude toward a person who does not get one task done “on time” is not appropriate.
Each team member must have a sense of responsibility, but at the same time, each team member should have sympathy for his or her colleagues and be willing to help any time a person is stuck.
When a person says, “I did not get this task done,” the main response should be, “Oh, you should have told me sooner — I would have helped you,” but not in a snarky way (as some of you can imagine), but in a truly helpful way.
It is very common that there two types of after-meeting. At first (especially), the SM must meet with the manager and discuss what was learned in the Daily Scrum. Often, a few people will have a meeting right afterward, where they discuss the biggest impediment identified, what the root cause is, and how to address it. The rest of the team can get back to work.
This after-discussion of the impediment (or possibly impediments) can vary a lot, depending on the impediment and many other factors.
Simple but difficult
The Daily Scrum is a bit like Scrum overall. It seems very simple, but in fact is rather complicated. It is simple to describe. Difficult to do really well.
Note: The next post in this series is here.