The Daily Scrum – a question

Srinivas sent me the following note:


Thanks to Joe and all of the attendees — I have learned a lot from all of you. I have a simple question — in the Daily Scrum meeting — if I understood it correctly, team members are expected to answer the three questions to the team — and not the ScrumMaster. Yes? How did you get them to do it?  What I am finding is that the members are reporting to the ScrumMaster.”


How do we make a better Daily Scrum?

Yes, the three questions are answered by each ‘pig’ (including the Product Owner) to the whole team, not to the SM. (Don’t get too concerned about exactly where the eyes look, as long as the attitude is right.)

The SM is the master of ceremonies of the meeting — trying to keep it good, to the point, quick and useful.

Sometimes, to make the point, the SM stands outside the circle, so that they can’t look at him and can only look at each other.

Explain the purpose: To give the team members enough info each day to make mid-course corrections to ‘land’ all the promised stories by the end of the Sprint. Everyone can help make mid-course corrections of one sort or another. So, the purpose is for them — to enable the team to self-organize and self-manage and self-direct to success.

To stop the behavior you mention, the SM has to remind them to report to the team. Remind them of the purpose, and sometimes avert eye contact and sometimes step ‘outside’ the semi-circle of pigs.

If the SM is the former Project Manager, this is a hard switch for everyone, since the habit of ‘reporting’ to the PM may be well ingrained.

Help enough?


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5 thoughts on “The Daily Scrum – a question

  1. jttraino

    From my person experience, I have a few techniques.

    If someone is making too much eye contact with me, I'll actually look down to force them to look at others. It's subtle, but effective.

    Also, routinely remind the entire time that the updates are for the team and not for me. If I feel that we are not doing a good job of that (and we have time left in the 15 minutes), I actually will ask team members to repeat back what other members are going to do that day. It always fails, but the next stand-up I notice a difference in the way information is being shared and heard.

    I hope that helps.

  2. Joe Little

    Hi JT (correct?),

    Yes, the "look down" that you mention is exactly the same as the "avert eye contact" that I mentioned.

    Like your second idea.

    One knows things are going better when "everyone" is offering to help others and wants to join one conversation or another right after the DS to fix a (small) impediment.


  3. Joe Little

    Good Morning Jack,

    Most SMs? Well, I certainly can accept that many SMs are former Project Managers. Maybe at your firm, most SMs are former PMs.

    And I know many (percentage wise) PMs who have overcome this problem. And let me describe the problem this way: Not only must the new SM not encourage the team to 'report' to them, but also the team most not fall into the trap of doing so. And, as I said before, this habit can be hard to break if the team is very used to it. (As, for humans, any habit is hard to break.)

    Still, the problem can be overcome.

    Now, it is also important NOT to let just any PM become a SM. Some PMs get a sense of power by having people report to them. It does no good, but they fill better in their job. (It it NOT important per se that individuals feel important or effective. It is important that the overall team IS important and effective.)

    So, some PMs will make terrible SMs. And some PMs make wonderful SMs.

    Anyway, good impediment for your team to work on. Good luck with it. (Yogi Berra: If life were perfect, it wouldn't be.)

    Happy holidays,

  4. Paul Naso

    Thanks for asking this question. Always good to understand new ideas. This concern of reporting directly to the SM at the DSUs are significantly different when the team is distributed instead of co-located. The key concern I face is getting away from doing “zombie scrum” at the DSUs since it is such a repetitive ceremony. Welcome any comments.

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