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The Daily Scrum -- Get out of the Routine and into the Unusual

16 August 2013

David Snelson

The daily Scrum, a.k.a. daily stand-up, ceremony is the shortest defined ceremony in the Scrum framework, but it is one that carries, or should carry, an important payload.

I have participated in many daily stand-up meetings that are routine and mechanical in delivery and execution; two of the three questions are answered casually and the third question, "Is there anything preventing me from completing my tasks?" is routinely answered with, "No impediments." The team members then return to their desks and begin their work for the day. The value of the meeting is negligible. Some team members go on and on about their daily schedule in an attempt to cover the second question, concerning what tasks they plan to complete today -- they never really state what project tasks they plan to complete today. Other team members dive into excruciating detail as to why they were unable to complete their tasks, causing the meeting to drag on and on. All of this taking place approximately ten feet away from the task board, with no team members ever making reference to their tasks on the board. Why have the meeting?

I have also participated in many daily stand-up meetings that are extremely beneficial and by no means routine in delivery or execution; team members circle the task board, make reference to their tasks as they answer the three questions, ask for help as needed, raise impediments with action plans to remove the impediments, arrange follow-up meetings, and create a plan for the team's work. All of this taking place within a 15-minute timebox. Why have the meeting?

I have also participated in many daily stand-up meetings that fell between these two extremes in both execution and value. So again, why have the meeting?

Let's move up the Scrum framework meeting chain. Before the daily Scrum meeting is the sprint planning meeting. The output from this meeting is a goal for the team to complete a high-quality piece of business-value functionality within the sprint timebox. Before the sprint planning meeting is the release planning meeting. The output from this meeting is, again, a goal for the team to deliver high-quality business-value functionality at specified dates. To start things off is the project or vision planning meeting; here, once again, the output of the meeting is a goal for a team to deliver a business-valuable product.

To achieve these goals requires deliberate, focused attention to the steps or, in our case, the tasks needed to reach the goal. The product, release, and sprint planning meetings produce the goal; the daily stand-up is where the focused attention is used to reach the goal.

My question: "Why have the meeting?" The ultimate answer is for the team to create a simple plan to accomplish its committed work. The three questions should be talking points, not questions to quickly answer and move on. Creating this simple plan brings focus to the team, builds team cohesion, and creates a course of action moving the team closer to the sprint goal.

As a team, find creative ways to move away from the routine, mechanical daily stand-up meeting to a meeting with real value, something with bite. Here is a small list of ideas to improve your daily stand-up meeting:
  • Move closer to the task board.
  • Touch and reference the cards on the task board as you talk.
  • Don’t pass around a talking ball. This tends to make the meeting too formal. We want team member interaction, but we need to be respectful of the team member talking and not interrupt. Quick, simple statements such as, "I can help you with that" and "Let's get together after the stand-up and talk through your issue" at the appropriate times are beneficial in creating the plan.
  • Council the team to talk about project tasks and not about personal schedules.
  • Council the team to hold follow-up meetings to resolve issues and problems.
  • Provide positive reinforcement for a valuable daily stand-up meeting.
The daily stand-up meeting is a short, powerful meeting with an outcome that will move the team toward the goal. Get out of the routine and into the unusual.

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.

Article Rating

Current rating: 5 (1 ratings)


Sankar Krishnamoorthy, CSM, 8/16/2013 4:24:11 AM
One of the major problem with scrum implementation is with ineffective daily stand up meetings. Teams end up with prolonged meetings with every one talks about at lenght and width, but ended up without knowing where are we exactly on the project and uncovering the delivery risks. The ideas really good ones and I would suggest one more. Memebes should be prepared for the meeting answering the questions - tasks on schedule, if not on schedule what is the revised date, catch up for the same and any risks in meeitng those revised deadlines
Karthik Neelakantan, CSM, 8/18/2013 2:11:13 PM
One of the technique I use and has worked very well is to schedule the daily scrum for 30 minutes with the first 15 minutes to focus on 3 questions and the next 15 minutes to discuss and agree actions to resolve the impediments.
Glen Wang, CSM, 8/18/2013 9:50:36 PM
As long as the team enjoy, daily stand is successful.

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