One of the most essential Scrum meetings is the daily scrum, also known as the daily standup. It is intended as a quick meeting to synchronize the efforts of the team members to ensure that every team member is aware of how the team as a whole is tracking towards its sprint goal.
This post discusses 4 ways you can ensure that your daily scrums are productive.
#1: Daily Means Daily
There is a reason the daily scrum is called daily. It should happen every day—not every other day, or every third day. Every working day. Period. This daily cadence establishes a pattern, a muscle memory in Scrum teams. To be effective as a Scrum team, team members must learn to move and work as a team. To further this one-team mentality, members need to make public, daily commitments to each other, instead of working in isolation toward some distant goal.
Teams are much more likely to begin and keep the daily scrum habit if the meeting happens in the same place and at the same time every day and if the meeting always lasts 15 minutes or less.
#2: Stand. Don’t Sit.
And there is a reason teams often call the daily scrum a daily standup. Team members are expected to stand for the meeting. Why? First it keeps everyone engaged. Its difficult to check email or doodle when you’re standing. Second, it keeps meetings short. If you’re feeling the need to sit, the meeting has somehow derailed. Third, standing increases energy levels and awareness, making everyone much more focused. So stand up, every day.
#3: Stay On Point & Take Turns
At the beginning of each meeting, remind the team members that they are there to sync their work and to raise any blocking issues. Repeat the general instructions: each person should answer three questions: what have you done since yesterday, what will you do today, and what impediments do you have. Then invite someone to start the conversation and then hand the volunteer a talking object of some sort.
The talking object can be anything the team chooses: a nerf football, a magic wand, a marker. The point is that whoever is holding the talking object can talk; anyone not holding the object, cannot. If a team member interrupts the person holding the talking object, the authorized speaker can wave the talking object as a general reminder that its his or her turn to speak. When the authorized speaker is finished, he or she then passes the talking object to the next team member. This simple prop keeps the meeting moving with minimal intervention from the ScrumMaster.
All of this repetition and structure might seem excessive—but it’s the best way to develop and maintain good sharing habits among team members while keeping the meeting moving along.
#4: Park Deep Dives
Occasionally a team member will deviate from answering the questions and begin to dive deep into problem solving. It’s natural to want to explain and get input and answers from one’s fellow team members, but the daily scrum isn’t the place for indepth conversations. Think of the issues raised in daily scrum as promises for future conversations—much as a product backlog item is a shorthand placeholder for a longer Q&A session. To help capture these issues, the ScrumMaster should write a note on a whiteboard in a section designated, “Parking Lot,” then signal the speaker to move on. At the end of the meeting, the ScrumMaster should ensure that the team members make plans to address any urgent parked items.
Keep It Real
If your only goal for the daily scrum was to have people arrive on time, give a succinct update, and then leave, you’d be set. But don’t forget that the purpose of the daily scrum is to ensure that the team is on track for accomplishing its sprint goal. Beware of rambling, vague updates that seem to gloss over a lack of progress; they often hide blocked work. ScrumMasters (and other team members) should clarify any vague or rambling updates either during the meeting or immediately after the meeting to surface any hidden issues.
Daily scrums are intended to be of the team, by the team, and for the team. Don’t let yours degenerate into infrequent, status reports that yield little collaboration and undermine progress to the sprint goal. To ensure productive daily scrums, insist on a daily cadence, remain standing, stay on topic, and park the deep dives until after the daily scrum, all while keeping a sharp eye out for hidden problems.