The Daily Scrum: Common Pitfalls and Negative Patterns

18 June 2014

Saravana Bharathi
Capital One




The Daily Scrum meetings, also known as stand-ups, are one of the core Agile ceremonies. They provide the shortest feedback loop, which makes them special. Typically the Daily Scrum meetings are held in the mornings, before the main work of the day. This helps the team sync up what they have been doing and will do, and raise any issues. However, if the teams are geographically dispersed, this meeting could be conducted at a different time that will work for everyone. Some teams have them in the afternoons (such as teams involving people on the East Coast, West Coast, and Europe). There are teams that have two Daily Scrums (such as teams working together from the U.S., India, and China).

Enough is written on good stand-ups (stick to the three questions, focus on accomplishments, the team owns the meeting, etc.). Here I thought I would discuss some common pitfalls and negative patterns, based on my experience.

Common pitfalls and negative patterns

These are some frequent problems with the Daily Scrum:
  • The ScrumMaster reminds everyone to start the meeting every day. The meeting should become everyone's habit, part and parcel of every day's affairs.
  • People start reporting the status to the ScrumMaster. Please remember that the daily stand-up is for the team, by the team. The ScrumMaster is there merely to facilitate. This pitfall occurs when the SM also happens to be the team's manager or someone from senior management.
  • Meetings don't start on time.
  • There is always someone joining the meeting late.
  • The ScrumMaster asks the three questions one by one, and people start reporting their individual status.
  • The meeting always runs at least 15 minutes too long.
  • It becomes a mere status report to the product owner, ScrumMaster, or various chickens.
  • There is a visible or invisible lack of trust among the team members.
  • There is fear of conflict, which means people are not honest in what they say.
  • There is always one person who avoids accountability.
  • Stand-ups becoming boring meetings, a mere ceremony.
  • There are no-shows as well as latecomers.
  • The meeting is not held daily.
  • The team does not perceive any value to the meeting.
  • There is too much socializing and wandering around on different topics.
  • The SM and/or PO directs team members on what to do.
  • People are not prepared for the daily stand-up and are searching for thoughts while talking.
  • The team becomes focused on problem solving during the stand-up.
  • People are not concise or clear in their discussions.
Being Agile requires a lot of self-discipline and conviction. Contrary to common myth, being Agile doesn't give you a free pass to do whatever you want by whatever means you feel like. Please remember, you are bound to act within the boundaries of your organization and Scrum rules. Then spread the love of Scrum, and be happy being Agile!


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Comments

SenthilVel Marimuthu, CSP,CSM, 6/18/2014 2:31:22 AM
Hi Saravana,
Good post on what you are seeing as Reality.

You must have seen the Latest 2013 Scrum guide - Hopefully... where we have a Mention stating that Stand up meetings are not just for STATUS updates and this is a NOT a status update meeting - Its a Planning Meeting for the Sprint Goal.

So Stand up meetings are Planning Meetings where the Product - Functional goal is planned on a daily basis - for which we need to have a dedicated Team - and the Value of Scrum, Team Empowerment needs to be in place.

The above Points may be for teams - which are just starting may be will Improve in coming sprints or Releases AND good opportunity for the Scrum Master to coach the team on how to Do the Daily - Stand up meetings.

Thanks
Senthil
Saravana Bharathi, CSP,CSM, 6/19/2014 8:24:18 AM
Hello Senthil,

Yes you are correct. Standup meetings are daily planning meeting for the entire team. Unfortunately Sometimes it becomes problem solving or execution meetings, It would be Scrum Master's responsibility to steer away the conversations and focus on daily planning.

Thank you.

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