The daily scrum is the heartbeat of a scrum team.
As Scrum is a compression algorithm for organizational and engineering best practices, this meeting is not a Scrum invention but it is considered an Agile best practice independently from the adopted framework.
It is also known as StandUpMeeting (1993 Jim Coplien), “daily scrum” (1997 Ken Schwaber), “daily stand-up” in XP (1999 Don Wells) or “huddle”, “roll-call”, “standup” or “daily”. In 1994 Jim Coplien, describing his observations of the “hyperproductive” Borland Quattro Pro team, noted their reliance on almost daily meetings: “the project was made more of meetings than anything else”.
“At times of fast change or high stress, it is essential that all members of the organization receive the same information.”
“Hold short daily meetings with the entire team to exchange critical information, update status, and/or make assignments. The meetings should last no more than 15 minutes, and generally happen first thing in the morning.”
While I personally prefer terms like scrum meetings or events rather than “ceremonies”, “rituals”, “liturgies”, there is a strong connection between the rhythm of the events and the performance increment in the teams. If you would like to know more how scrum improves productivity leveraging willpower, power of habits, ritual, flow, muscular theory, sugar and lysine, neocortex, limbic system, stress, focus, happiness I would recommend you to read this article.
During the daily Scrum, developers tell to one another how their own work is going, ask for help if needed, and consider whether they are still on track to meet the sprint goal.
This is not a status meeting but instead an opportunity for the development team to inspect and adapt the product and process on a daily basis.
Attendees often think they need to wait till the next morning’s huddle to communicate a blocker or an update. This can create a snowball effect where everything comes out at the daily Scrum. Instead, peers should use alternative ways of communicating throughout the day.
Some development teams will use questions, some will keep a more conversational style, some will adopt boards. Here is an example of what questions might be used:
- 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?
Some teams where responsibilities for achieving the sprint goal are shared often use “we” instead of “I”. The daily Scrum is an internal meeting for the Development Team. If others are present, the Scrum Master ensures that they do not disrupt the meeting. The development team or team members often meet immediately after the daily Scrum for detailed discussions, or to adapt, or re-plan, the rest of the Sprint’s work. Development team is responsible for conducting the daily Scrum. Scrum Master ensures that development team has the meeting. Scrum Master teaches the development team to keep the daily Scrum within the 15-minute time-box.
- – 15-minute time-boxed event for the development team.
- – Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place every day to reduce complexity.
- – Team meets to inspect progress toward the sprint goal.
- – Development team is responsible for conducting the daily Scrum.
- – Daily Scrum is best used to raise issues/challenges, to find out who can help and then off-line that discussion.
- – This is a key inspect and adapt meeting.
- – Team self-organise to increase transparency and improve performance.
- – Daily meetings prevent a common failure mode for teams, where in the absence of an explicit occasion to share recent information, some critical knowledge may sometimes “fall through the cracks”.
- – Regular peer-to-peer sharing of information in a short, focused and energetic meeting also contributes to team cohesion.
- – Stand-up meetings are reliably shorter, more pleasant and more effective than sit-down meetings.
- – Support and encourage peers to find the sweet spot where engagement is high.
- – Daily Scrums improve communication, eliminate other meetings, identify impediments to development for removal, highlight and promote quick decision-making, and improve the development team’s level of knowledge.
Maturity of the team, context and environment determine what format suits the team best. Different teams (co-located or remote) can adopt different solutions. It’s the SHU-HA-RI of the Art of Scrum and whilst there is no progress without deviation from the norm, not all deviations are productive, healthy, acceptable.
What can go wrong?
If you observe any of listed situations below, you may need to inspect and adapt as most likely you are doing something that impedes your continuous performance improvements.
- – Daily Scrum lasts more than 15 minutes
- – The purpose of the meeting is not achieved
- – The purpose of the meeting is misunderstood
- – Someone arrives late
- – Someone skips the meeting
- – Someone is distracted or not fully engaged
- – Wrong audience take the lead
- – Someone talks when it is not their turn or jumps in
- – While someone is talking, others start talking between themselves
- – Someone’s mind is somewhere else
- – Someone focuses on their phones, chats, laptop, outside the window, code, agendas… etc.
- – Someone doesn’t provide enough information
- – Someone provides too much information leaving peers very little time for their turn
- – Someone states the obvious
- – Someone is cryptic
- – Someone is not prepared and relaxed but they seem stressed, rushing and agitated
- – Someone didn’t look at the board or didn’t update the sprint backlog items status in advance
- – There is no clear sprint goal
- – Someone asks questions or clarifications to someone else
- – The meeting becomes a design session, solutioning meeting, planning or backlog review
- – Questions, doubts, ideas, comments aren’t held till the end or addressed as follow up – meeting, chat, email, call…
- – Team members tease external audience expecting answers or decisions to be provided immediately
- – Someone makes it a complaining session
- – Someone speaks on someone else’s behalf
- – Someone interrupts, argues, raises the voice, behaves unprofessionally
- – Someone rolls the eyes or makes comments or gestures that could possibly make anyone else feel uncomfortable
- – Invasive or pressuring Scrum Master, Product Owner, Manager, Auditor
- – Someone waits for the next standup to raise issues rather than communicating them throughout the day
- – Someone waits for the next standup to ask questions rather than communicate them throughout the day
- – Someone is blocked but they are not aware of it
- – Progress is not visible or not reflected in the board
- – No backlog items passed from “to-do” to “development” or from “development” to “test” or from “test” to “done” or generally speaking whatever is the name and number of statuses, nothing flows on daily basis
In over 25 years, many pitfalls and anti-patterns have been observed in teams adopting Scrum. It is not the framework that is faulty but the particular implementation could be. The framework itself encourages teams to inspect and correct what is not working.
Self improvement at individual or team level requires a certain dosage of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself.While doing so, agile coaches and scrum masters invented some terms to describe existing problems exposed by Scrum and there is a definition for each of them: scrumzombie, scrumdimentalism, waterfallitis, sadoscrums, schlum, kanbanizing, scrumbutophobia…
Getting into the specifics of the Daily Scrum deviations, here are some more examples:
The useless prediction
“today I’ll have all day meetings””me too””me too”
… repeated n times
The useless miscalculation
“yesterday I had all day meetings”
(3 meetings, 1 hour each, non consecutive, less than half day in total)
The copy paste
Bob: “as Alice already said…” followed by long repetitive period using same words of Alice
Charlie: “as Bob and Alice already said…” followed by long repetitive period using same words of Alice and Bob
The meaningless list
“yesterday I worked on twelve-thirtyseven, twelve-thirty-eight, twelve-thirty-nine, eleven-sixty-one…”
(keep listening 10 Trello or Jira subtasks for 4 minutes)
“and today I will keep working on twelve-thirtyseven, twelve-thirty-eight, twelve-thirty-nine, eleven-sixty-one…”
(repeating the same list)
The infinite WIP collection
“I am working on lemons, pineapple, onions, cauliflower, beans, watermelon…”
(working on the same for 3 weeks. The difference with the previous is that at least the long list is made of slightly more meaningful titles rather than numbers)
The slow multitasking WIP collection
“I am still working on the 3 stories carried over from last sprint which are lemons, pineapple, onions. I am almost there but I just want to flag that I may also need the next sprint to finish lemons, pineapple, onions “.
“Same as yesterday.” (which is?)
The self-motivator honesty
“Really nothing to do today.”
The hungry one
“I have a lot on my plate but I could have capacity to bring something in from the backlog”
The blocked pessimist
“I am blocked but I don’t think anyone can help”
The blocked in denial
“I am not blocked, I only need to find a way although I am not sure it exists”
The blocked optimist
“I am blocked because my pc is on fire but they told me they will send soon a new one fully configured with even my favourite tabs already open “
The blocked optimist in denial
“I am not blocked, I posted the issue on stackoverflow. If no one replies in 3 days then I will mark it as blocked”
The never done
“This is almost done”
“This is basically done”
“This can be considered done”
“This is quite done”
“This is done, in fact is missing only tests”
“This is done unless I should also complete the other acceptance criteria”
This list is almost complete it’s only missing more items