Daily Scrum: Merely a status report?

23 November 2009

Vinay Krishna
Cegedim Software India Pvt Ltd

Daily Scrum: Merely a status report?

By: Vinay Krishna, CSM

Introduction

One of the important, key Scrum practices is the Daily Scrum. It happens daily during each Sprint and the entire team participates.

During this Daily Scrum everyone answers the following three questions:

1. What’s been accomplished since the last meeting?
2. What’s going to be done before the next meeting?
3. What obstacles are in the way?

Often people treat it as a typical status meeting and behave very casually, which eventually could lead to bad results.

This is not a mere status update meeting where one person (Project Manager or team lead) collects information about who is behind schedule. Rather, it is a meeting in which every team member makes commitments to each other. This has the wonderful effect of helping all team members realize the significance of these commitments and that their commitments are to each other. The meeting is not used for problem-solving or issue resolution. Issues that are raised are discussed offline and usually dealt with by the relevant sub-group immediately after the meeting. The Daily Scrum should not take more than 15 minutes.

It requires that team members are disciplined and do not discuss impediments in detail during this meeting, only ensure others are informed. If needed, they can discuss it with concerned team members separately.

Significance

One question may arise here, why are only these three questions important and not discussion about what’s new?

High visibility of progress

It’s a place where each day, team members can see the progress of a project and easily see their contributions.

Improve estimation

By focusing on what a team member accomplished yesterday, the team member gains an excellent understanding of flaws in his estimates. Gradually, it improves his estimation skill.

Self-organization

Team members select their daily tasks and they are responsible for deciding the requirements for the Sprint. This helps them to understand their daily responsibilities. Thus, it aids team self-organization, and slowly team members gain the maturity necessary to commit to something appropriately or to handle impediments efficiently.

Increase the quality

Daily communication helps to refactor the work as well as improve the turnaround time required to remove impediments. It builds knowledge and helps to quickly apply and reuse the knowledge.

Common Problems

Below are common problems that negatively affect the Daily Scrum:

Lack of a clear understanding of Scrum practices

If the team doesn’t have a clear understanding of Scrum practices, then the Daily Scrum takes the wrong shape and also takes much more time to complete. Very soon the team loses the positive effect of a Daily Scrum, it eventually becomes a status update meeting, and people change its frequency from daily to weekly.

Old mindset/habit

It’s very common hurdle. A lot of people answer these questions like they were providing their status to the PM or Team Lead and not the ScrumMaster. Sometimes team members only address the ScrumMaster while providing answers during the Daily Scrum, as if they are providing a typical status report. It has also been observed that team members often provide very generic and high-level answers that cover more than one person’s task.

Faced critical problem

This happens when a team member has faced some critical problem that has a direct impact on his current or upcoming tasks. Most of the time people start explaining the problem in great detail, which consumes lots of time.

Communication problem

Sometimes people aren’t able to concisely explain technical stuff. This is another type of communication problem.

Information about barriers shapes the discussion

It’s a common practice to engage in a discussion about barriers if someone is talking about it. That causes the Daily Scrum to change into a discussion, and others slowly become a part of it.

Start requirement/design clarification/discussion

People start clarifying the requirement or start discussing design during the Daily Scrum, because they find it very valid place to start and want to spend more time discussing.

Team is too big

If the team is big then it takes more time to complete the Daily Scrum. In this case people complain that the discussion doesn’t pertain to their tasks and want their turn to speak to come quickly so that they can leave early.

How to handle problems

Below are some ways to handle such scenarios:

Proper team training on Scrum

Plan proper training for team members or provide occasional, small Scrum awareness sessions with the team.

Reiterate the three questions

Reiterate the three questions as many times as possible to remind the team until the team reaches that maturity level.

Avoid a lengthy technical discussion

If someone tries to explain the technical problem or if it's taking the shape of a technical discussion, the ScrumMaster must stop them politely and ask to have this discussion offline. Always focus on the current Sprint Backlog while discussing tasks.

Scrum of Scrums

In the case of a big team, consider a Scrum of Scrums. It is more effective for large or distributed teams.

Conclusion

The Daily Scrum helps to improve the individual’s commitment within the team, and the team’s maturity level and self organization. Eventually it creates a self organized team with positive team vibes.

Remember: The Daily Scrum (daily stand up meeting) must finish in 15 minutes, and everyone must answer the three questions to the team.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



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Comments

Ramesh Jude Pachamuthu, CSP,CSM, 7/16/2010 5:39:36 PM
Good article, thanks Vinay. As a Scrum Master its sometimes challenging to "politely" ask the team to stop and have a discussion offline when the team gets carried away with detailed discussions on the impediment or technical issue. If the short 1-2 mins discussion will resolve the impediment or technical issue, I will let the team carry on but no more than 2 mins, and also if its in the interest of the team.
Vinay Krishna, CSP,CSM, 7/17/2010 1:01:18 AM
Thanks, Ramesh. I do agree with your points, always a situational reaction is required from Scrummaster to handle various states.

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