The Disastrous Daily Scrum

Every Scrum team has their struggles with the daily Scrum. It’s a subject of endless misunderstanding. Today I would like to share some of my knowledge towards ‘The Daily Scrum Anti patterns’ and how to avoid bad daily scrum situations.


Before getting into the topic, Let's dive into some history and basics.


This 15 mins time boxed meeting is called ‘Daily Scrum’ and not Daily Stand-up. Do you know, it is not even mandatory to stand up during this meeting BUT there was a reason that this meeting has been called interchangeably daily stand-up or daily scrum in the past.


Back in between 2010 - 2014, when the Scrum Guide was evolving, and Scrum on its own was getting explored by more and more organisations, Jeff Sutherland has mentioned in one of his blog that


The third rule was that everyone had to actively participate. To help this happen, I said that everyone had to stand up. That way there’d be active talking and listening going on. It also would keep the meetings short.
This is the reason such a meeting is often called the Daily Stand-up or Daily Scrum. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. It has to be at the same time every day, with the same three questions, with everyone standing up, and last no more than fifteen minutes.

I agree to the point mentioned above. This meeting gets really effective if we are standing up as no one likes to stand for a long time and it helps to make the meeting more focused and to the point without diving into unnecessary lengthy discussions in those 15 mins.


So, Lets see what the latest Scrum Guide (2017 edition) says about the ‘Daily Scrum’ Event and then we will see some of the anti patterns and ideas on how to overcome them.


Definition


As per the scrum guide -

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours. The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity.
The Development Team uses the Daily Scrum to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and to inspect how progress is trending toward completing the work in the Sprint Backlog.
The structure of the meeting is set by the Development Team and can be conducted in different ways if it focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal. Some Development Teams will use questions, some will be more discussion based.

In short, Daily Scrum is a collaborative planning session of a 15 minutes time box. It should be team-centric. When the focus is on individual status updates, you have lost most of the value of the daily scrum.


A Disastrous Daily Scrum


Let’s walk through a real life example of bad daily scrum:


SM: Okay Thomas, you can go first. Anything to report?

Thomas: Nothing much. Still working on ticket 1234. Did some changes here and there, will continue working on it and will know more tomorrow

SM: Thomas that’s 3 days in a row. Hope today is a good day. Okay Paul you are next.

Paul: Finished it late last night. Ready to take another task.

Sara: Hey Paul, that check-in broke the build and I haven’t been able to deploy all morning

Manager: That’s the 4th time this month, Paul. Let’s talk in our 1-1

SM: Alright lets table this issue for now. We have 9 more people to hear from.


Questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Is Thomas’s ticket explanation giving any input on progress towards the Sprint goal?

  2. Why is Paul working on tasks late at night?

  3. How likely is it that Paul will share anything Important during the daily Scrum in future?

  4. Could Sara have offered help instead of just voicing criticism?

  5. Why the manager participating?

  6. Why are developers giving status report to the Scrum Master?


Daily Scrum Anti Patterns


While I let you ponder upon the above questions for a while, below are some of the anti patterns that I have experienced till today -

  1. The Daily Scrum is a status report meeting, and team members are waiting in line to “report” progress to the Scrum master, the product owner, or maybe even stakeholder.

  2. Updates are generic with little or no value to others (“Yesterday, I worked on X-123. Today, I will work on X-129”).

  3. Discussions are triggered to solve problems, instead of parking those so they can be addressed after the Daily Scrum.

  4. The team hijacks the daily Scrum to discuss new requirements, to refine user stories, or to have a sort of (Sprint) planning meeting.

  5. A team member experiences difficulties in accomplishing an issue over several consecutive days, and nobody is offering to help (this a sign that people either do not trust each other or that the utilization of the team is maximized).

  6. Team members violate the time-boxing, starting monologue (60 to 90 seconds per team member should be more than enough time on air).

  7. A few team members are commenting on every issue (usually, this is not just a waste of time, but also patronizing as well as annoying).

  8. Other team members are talking while someone is sharing his or her progress with the team

  9. The product owner – or Scrum Master – assigns tasks directly to team members.

  10. Team members are not prepared for the Daily Scrum (“I was doing some stuff, but I cannot remember what. Was important, though.”).

  11. Team members are late to the Daily Scrum (note: if the team did not choose the time for the stand-up it otherwise indicates distrust on the management side).

  12. Team members criticize other team members right away sparking a discussion instead of taking their critique outside the daily Scrum.

  13. “Chickens” actively participate in the daily scrum. I think it is acceptable if stakeholders ask a question during the daily scrum. However, they are otherwise supposed to merely listen in.

  14. Line managers are attending daily scrum to gather “performance data” on individual team members (this behavior is defying the very purpose of self-organizing teams).


Suggestions to Improve Daily Scrum and New questions to try on


  1. Is anything stuck?

  2. If something is stuck, how can we all work together to get this work unstuck?

  3. Who needs help?

  4. What’s the most important thing we need to accomplish today?

  5. How do we increase the odds that the most important things get to done?

  6. What new impacts have been identified?

  7. What information needs to be shared within the team?

  8. Instead of individual updates, use the team board to guide the conversation. Walk through each piece of work in the sprint backlog. Include each team member in the conversation to get different perspective about the progress team is making.

  9. Discuss blockers, progress and tasks the team will work on today for each product backlog item.

  10. Keep the team board up to date

  11. If someone outside the development team is overpowering the daily scrum, ask them to leave. If the problem is YOU, then either force yourself to remain silent or simply don’t attend.

  12. Keep the development team’s focus on the sprint goal.


Final Thoughts


I do believe that Daily Scrum is one of the most important event in the Scrum Framework and if it goes wrong the whole sprint can suffer.


Its never too late to try on new ways of making this short meeting more effective. Do try on some of the new questions and see if it helps you and your team. Every Scrum team is different and one way of doing it will not help all of them. So, do try and make it fun.


As we know, Scrum is all about inspection and adaption. Try one way of doing the daily scrum for at-least 2 sprints and discuss it in the retrospective. If its working for you, well and good , keep doing it. If not, its not too late to try a new pattern for the next few sprints.


Keep trying, keep it to the point, always have the sprint goal in mind and I promise your Daily Scrum will not be a Status meeting anymore.