Suggestions for a better Daily Scrum

It is my view that the main problem with doing Scrum is that we don’t “feel the music” while we do the dance. That is to say: we don’t understand the values and principles underlying the practices we are doing.

In general, this is true of all of us. Saying, “I get Scrum better than you,” is not especially useful. Still, someone has to convey, “I don’t think you are getting the values and principles well enough.”

This might start as a question, such as: “Why do we do the Daily Scrum?’

My answer: It enables the team to land the airplane more successfully at the end of the Sprint. Or, it enables the team to self-organize and self-manage and self-direct, as if they were adults.

Put another way, it enables the team to get enough visibility about everything that is going on, to identify the biggest problem(s), deal with them and then complete the Sprint successfully with all committed “stories” completed (“done, done” if you use that phrase).

Some smells or issues:

1. Reporting status to the ScrumMaster.

People often expect that it is a status meeting to one person or maybe a few people. No, we are not reporting status to any manager. You are enabling yourselves (the whole team) to be successful.

2. No one is talking about anything useful.

Sometimes people are talking and no one is listening.

Then do the “Five Whys” about the root cause of that.

3. People want to hide.

Well, it is natural to hide from pain or expected pain. Virtually 120 percent of the time the implementer has been beaten up, harassed or disrupted somewhere in his or her past, if he or she told the truth. So, naturally, it takes a long time of not getting punished before he or she believes there will be no more punishments.

Figure out how to deal with that. Talking helps.

If you ask them to tell the truth, it often feels like that requires courage.

4. Everyone says, “No impediments.”

Yeah, this happens.  First, explain that we are always removing the top impediment (that is happening for your team now, right?). Then, emphasize that people themselves and their normal mistakes are not impediments. Or, maybe it’s better to say that we always expect people to make a normal number of human mistakes — that is part of being creative. Then, ask them to identify anything that is slowing the team down (sometimes they have too limited a view of what an impediment might be). Then, tell them that each person must identify his biggest impediment (and we all have a biggest one, since nothing is perfect).

5. People arriving late.

Sometimes a difficult one. First, review why you think the Daily Scrum is valuable, its purpose, stuff like that. Does that late person agree? If yes, then why is he late? Ah, he has something more important to do almost every day? Second, Does he really feel like he is a member of the team? Third. Continue like this.

Tricks. Sometimes it just takes “tricks.” The “put a $1 in a jar if you are late” trick is well known. (The team takes the money and buys donuts every so often, for example.) Or, try having the late person sing a song after the stand-up meeting — very effective for many. Or, have the person eat a pickle (in the morning). I have not done this, but I hear that a pickle tastes bad in the a.m.

Also, if a team member sends in his answers to another team member before the stand-up meeting, then he is not “late.” It could still be an issue, especially if it happens often, but let’s not call it lateness.

6. They only answer the three questions.

The three questions are only a help. The team should talk about the most important stuff in 15 minutes (maximum) to land the plane together. Especially if some Sprints have failed (not gotten all stories done) and poor daily info feels like a root cause — then explore this. There are often important things to say that are not directly covered by the three questions.

7. Have the Daily Scrum around the Scrum Board.

Finally, I strongly encourage, especially for beginning teams, to have the Daily Scrum around the Scrum Board, and to move the cards in the meeting — it is magic. (Many studies and theories explain what the magic is, but do you need to go there?)  It works a lot better if the team is collocated.

Why do we have a Daily Scrum?

Well, it’s just like Fred Brooks said in “The Mythical Man-Month”:
“How does a project get one year late?”
“One day at a time.”

If we take and address the top impediment each day, we are much more effective as a team. It is more than that, but often, that is enough of an explanation.


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5 thoughts on “Suggestions for a better Daily Scrum

  1. 5CentsWorth

    All great advice, 15mins (max) mm, not really. If they need to talk more thats ok, 15 mins is a guide. On reason I often find in teams that dont communicate in scrum meetings is the scrum master is working as a team leader , or another team member is working as a team leader and telling people what to do, so people shut up and wait. Or even worse that there has been a punitive response to bad news in the past. being late is not good but there maybe a good reason, and why is more important than anything else, so bad news is better than none and any action that stops bad news will crash the plane. Scrum meetings are a critical part of the bonding experience of the team the stronger the bond the stronger the team, the more committed they are, the more committed the more they will walk through fire to get the job done. Often forgotten in the It world we are human, being of two brains left and right, the left is the 3 questions that technically gets things done, the right is the multiplier, energy enthusiasm and engagement. Both are needed for you to get the highest performance and quality.

  2. Joe Little

    Hi 5Cents,

    Excellent advice.

    I differ with you slightly in one regard. I think the Daily Scrum "proper" should be reliably under 15 minutes. However, if anyone or the team decide to have an additional meeting right after the Daily Scrum, that would be fine (in my book).

    Usually in fact there is need for such a follow-on meeting with some group. But usually not the whole group of pigs. Or so I find.

    I think mostly we are saying the same thing, just a different way.

    I won't boor you and others saying all the reasons I agree with you on every other point.


  3. 5CentsWorth

    I think we are talking about the same thing, I tell my scrum masters you need to take the time to get the job done, let people get out and share what needed but not let the conversation drift off into one or other technical detail. We have some team who get it done in 5 -10 some almost 15 to 20. Once over 20 I tend to start sitting in, usually there is a problem in the functioning of the team if they are going longer than 20 on a regular basis.

  4. Katie

    Great post! As efficient as I believe our team is, after reading your post, I smell areas of potential improvement. At least we are part of the lucky half that are Agile enough to continue to analysis and improve our processes. Thanks for the tips! Going to share your post on AgileShout.

  5. Joe Little

    Hi Katie,

    Thanks for your kind words. My view is that even if we had the best Daily Scrum ever, we could still improve it. Although maybe we should improve a bigger impediment first.

    Anyway, that post was short. I have lots of other ideas on the Daily Scrum, which I hope to post soon. It seems to be a mis-understood meeting, probably because people have been to too many stupid 'status' meetings.

    The key purposes (that everyone seems to forget, at least eventually): 1. To give the whole team the info to land the plane successfully together. 2. To get the bad news out on the table asap, so the bad news does not get better with age. (Ok, some Aikido there, but you get the point.) [Yes, I said these in the blog post, but apparently they bear repeating. For others, not you.]

    Regards, Joe

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