What’s wrong with our Daily Scrum?


We all appreciate that Stand-ups or Daily Scrums are integral for teams to synchronize their work and highlight impediments for the day, but are yours as effective as they could be?
Classically, a team would stand around the team board and answer the standard 3 Scrum questions in turn:

  • What has been accomplished since the last meeting?
  • What will be done before the next meeting?
  • What obstacles are in the way?

The Scrum Guide mentions:

‘Every day, the Development Team should be able to explain to the Product Owner and Scrum Master how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the goal and create the anticipated Increment in the remainder of the Sprint.’

Unfortunately, we were finding that some team members couldn’t do this. They could mention what they were working on but not how they were working together to complete the increment of work. We were hearing status updates like: ‘Yesterday I worked on database optimization, I haven’t finished it yet so I’ll be working on it today. No obstacles’. This may be entirely true, but there’s no value in an update like this. If your Daily Scrums contain this information, you might as well not do them at all. We wanted the team to feel real value in the Daily Scrum rather than just status updates. While I agree that if interpreted correctly the 3 questions in the Scrum guide can give the team the information they need, I believe in some teams there needs to be an element of coaching about getting the right information from the stand-up.

We’ve been trialling a new format that seems to returning positive results and encourages teams to get value out of Daily Scrums. Let me explain the team’s thought process:

Stage 1 – Team Goals

The Agenda

  • What has been accomplished since the last meeting?
  • What will be done before the next meeting?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
  • What are our team goals for today?
Why we did it
We found that the team struggled with long planning horizons around Sprint Goals. After discussion with the team we introduced Daily goals to great effect. At the end of a Daily Scrum, the team would choose goals for the day, write them on a post-it note on the team board. We found that decreasing the forecast horizon led to daily success celebrations and gave the team focus on what the major objective(s) were for that day.

Stage 2 – Moving goals

The Agenda

  • What has been accomplished since the last meeting?
  • What are our team goals for today?
  • What will be done before the next meeting?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
Why we did it
After the initial success of the goals, we then found that the team’s work for the day was changing after deciding on the goals for day. We briefly considered moving the goals to the beginning, but then we would have a different issue of generating goals for the day before the team inspected the work from the previous day. It seemed the sensible place to define goals for the day was after reviewing how yesterday went.

Stage 3 – Separate the team discussion from the round-robin

The Agenda

Everybody answers in turn:

  • What has been accomplished since the last meeting?

Team discussion:

  • What are our team goals for today?

Everybody answers in turn:

  • What will be done before the next meeting?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
Why we did it
Although it seemed the sensible place to define goals for the day was after reviewing how yesterday went, this introduced a new problem. During the round-robin other team members would interject on the ‘team goals’ question and goals would get continuously created and redefined during the Daily Scrum as each team member mentioned what had been accomplished since the last meeting. This was very time consuming so we decided to split the questions into 2 round-robins and a time-boxed team discussion.

Stage 4 – Adding in a new question

The Agenda

Everybody answers in turn:

  • What has been accomplished since the last meeting?

Team discussion

  • Did we meet the goals we set yesterday?
  • What are our team goals for today?

Everybody answers in turn:

  • What will be done before the next meeting?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
Why we did it
This worked really well, as the whole team took it turns to talk about what they achieved the previous day. This naturally resulted in a conversation about whether they had met their goals from the previous day. Given the usefulness of the ‘Why’ if the team didn’t meet the previous day’s goals we decided to add in a reminder question to think about whether we actually met them or not. We found this had the side-effect of increased ownership over the goals as they were being reviewed by the team every day.

Stage 5 – Expanding to include Sprint Impediments.

The Agenda

Everybody answers in turn:

  • What has been accomplished since the last meeting?

Team discussion

  • Did we meet the goals we set yesterday?
  • Are we confident that we’ll clear the Sprint Backlog by the end of the Sprint?
  • What are our team goals for today?

Everybody answers in turn:

  • What will be done before the next meeting?
  • What obstacles are in the way?
Why we did it
This worked really well. However we were finding that impediments were being raised around the day’s work rather than the sprint’s work. We tried adding in the question ‘Are we confident that we’ll clear the Sprint Backlog by the end of the Sprint?’. Anything less than 100% confidence on this resulted in a discussion around what was in the way. This highlighted new impediments that we didn’t even know existed in the context of the Sprint rather than the day’s work. It also had the happy side-effect of getting the team to look at the burndown and if it was off-track, think about why. We chose to place it just before defining goals for the day as they may change as a result of answering this question.

Stage 6 – Terminology changes

The Agenda

Everybody answers in turn:

  • How did I contribute to the goal(s) we set yesterday?

Team discussion

  • Did we meet the goal(s) we set yesterday?
  • Are we confident that we’ll clear the Sprint Backlog by the end of the Sprint?
  • What should be the goal(s) for today?

Everybody answers in turn:

  • How am I going to contribute to today’s goal(s)?
  • What could stop me successfully meeting today’s goal(s)?
Why we did it
We now had a process that was working really well. The team had a buzz around them, celebrating small successes and we were getting visibility across the full Sprint. We changed some of the terminology of the questions to better describe the information that the team felt we needed. This helped the team put it into context.

Stage 7 – Define timebox

We decided to timebox the full meeting to 20 minutes instead of the usual 15. The team agreed that the extra 5 minutes was worth the extra value that a new agenda may bring.

Is this Scrum?

I know a lot of ScrumMasters will be looking at this proposed template thinking ‘This isn’t Scrum, it’ll never work’ but just hear me out for a minute. The Scrum guide mentions the following objectives of the Daily Scrum:

  • Inspect the work since the last daily scrum
  • Assess how progress is trending toward completing the work in the Sprint Backlog
  • Forecast the work that could be done before the next Daily Scrum.
  • Synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours

Inspect the work since the last daily scrum

We cover this mainly in the initial round robin. We found that team members could easily remember the objectives for the previous day (they were written on the wall!) which reminded them what work they did to meet the goal.

Assess how progress is trending toward completing the work in the Sprint Backlog

The first and second parts of the team discussion concentrates on assessing progress on both the daily and sprint horizons. It has the advantage of being assessed by the team rather than individuals.

Forecast the work that could be done before the next Daily Scrum.

The last part of the team discussion covers forecasting the work for the next day. As it’s a team discussion, what to cover becomes a joint decision. This is especially useful if you have junior members of the team which may need some guidance and advice on what work to do approach next.

Synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours

This will probably start in the team discussion but is then reflected on in the last round-robin. This confirms to the team what each individual is going to do to meet the goals and helps highlight any further impediments.

Summary

So looking at the above objectives, we still meet all the intended outcomes of the meeting. In fact, I believe we actually get better information using a format like this combined with Daily Goals than we do with a 3 question round-robin. We tried it, I believe it works. I’d love to hear feedback from other teams.

One thought on “What’s wrong with our Daily Scrum?

  1. James Dilley June 30, 2014 / 10:20 am

    Craig – this is genius … I will make every Scrum Master I work with read this from now on. This should be published in the wider community. It’s probably the best blog post I have every read (partly because it does not just state the obvious!)

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