Scrum: Adding the Fourth Question to the Daily Standup

Posted in Agile, Scrum, and Planning - 0

On one project team, when we would do our standup, team members would answer the three questions with energy.

"Yesterday I finished the IAS web service and today I will begin adding the key tables to the new DB, no blocking issues"

We all knew what this meant, after all, we were all sitting right next to each other in the team room.

Near the end of the Sprint, however, things changed.  People would still answer the three questions with the same accuracy and gusto that they had been all Sprint long, but they would grumble that we were not on track to meet our Sprint goal.  I asked myself, how could this be?

What I noticed was that people were still uncomfortable with raising issues. We were a new team and none of us had worked together before.

I pulled out an old trick, a thermometer test. I first experimented with this in early 2005 and it's a tool I have been using ever since. Simply put, I introduced a new question into the Daily Scrum, which was....

"On a scale of 1 - 10, how confident are you that we will accomplish the goal of this Sprint?"

Now the issues started to surface.  While people were not comfortable stating blocking issues caused by other team members, they were comfortable in saying "six" instead.

How to use this on your team

Add the fourth question.  Let the team know what it means and what it is for.  Then listen.  If you, the ScrumMaster, notice a variance in the numbers, discuss it.  It's that simple.

Here is an example:

  • Joe: 9
  • Mike: 8
  • Bill: 8
  • Michelle: 9
  • Sarah: 5

Whoa! a FIVE???  time to start probing.

Be Cautious

Be cautious - people may want to discuss their numbers in private.  Encourage team participation.  Let the strong personalities on the team know that they will need to scale back the "strong-ness" and let people talk.  This is not a time for attacking, it is a time for building trust and comfort in the team.

How Long?

I see teams use this technique early on and, once trust and communication is established, it dies down.