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A Day in Scrum as Part of the PDCA Cycle

13 June 2014

Jai Singhal


The Scrum framework applies to product development in a complex domain context. The context of a complex domain requires empirical process control. Empirical process control theory asserts that experience provides knowledge, and decisions are made based on what is learned. Three legs of empirical process control are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle enacts these legs of empirical process control. In the 1950s, W. Edward Deming came up with the PDCA cycle, or Deming cycle, as a continuous improvement framework. The PDCA cycle had a major impact on the Lean approach to manufacturing at Toyota. The Daily Scrum supports the PDCA cycle at a tactical level, but there is a misconception that the Daily Scrum comprises the PDCA cycle. This is addressed in my blog "Hang Around for a While After the Daily Scrum."

The Daily Scrum

Every day, the development team assesses its progress toward the sprint goal. This occurs during the Daily Scrum ceremony. The ScrumMaster facilitates the Daily Scrum, which is one of the Scrum ceremonies that makes process visible on a daily basis. The Daily Scrum ceremony provides transparency for further inspection and adaptation. Various development activities are planned and assessed for effectiveness in reaching the common sprint goal. (Further insight into the Daily Scrum is addressed in my article "The Easiest and Most Powerful Part of Scrum.")

At the daily level, development progress is assessed during the Daily Scrum. Inspection and adaptation can follow throughout the day and following days, if needed. The focus is to make progress visible toward the sprint goal. During the Daily Scrum, the development team members share what each developer completed yesterday, what is to be completed on the current day, and any impediments or roadblocks. This leads to various aspects that are addressed after the Daily Scrum is over. The ScrumMaster seeks to resolve the impediments while the development team focuses on completing the planned tasks. Any time there are questions related to a backlog item or the business domain, the product owner is accessible to provide the needed insights.

Activities during a day in the sprint

There are many activities performed during the day. Some are:
  • The development team assesses the progress and plans for the day.
  • The development team attends and shares progress during the Daily Scrum.
  • The work activities or tasks are performed to complete high-priority backlog items.
  • The team collaborates on various items of interest around uncertainties, risks, unknowns, and impediments.
  • The development team discusses any outstanding items, unknowns, risks, and other aspects with the product owner and stakeholders.
  • The ScrumMaster supports the development team.
  • The ScrumMaster mentors the development team in becoming a self-organizing and cross-functional team.
  • The ScrumMaster safeguards the development team from outside interruptions.
  • The ScrumMaster ensures that Scrum rules are enforced and facilitates various meetings and events, as requested.
  • The development team reviews the completed backlog items with the product owner in compliance with the Definition of Done.
  • The product owner collaborates on and provides insights for various inquiries of the development team.
  • The product owner prioritizes and refines the product backlog as appropriate.
  • The development team owns the sprint backlog and updates it, as appropriate.
  • When an impediment or risk surfaces, the development team collaborates and devises an action plan to resolve the issues.
  • The development team continues to learn about the unknowns and manage its work.
  • Continuous inspection and adaptation is done as something of interest becomes visible and requires attention.
  • The development team updates the work activities or tasks completed on the sprint burn-up or burn-down chart.
  • Any updates on the sprint goal are shared and information radiators are updated.
  • Tactical planning is done to devise approaches to complete backlog items and the attain the sprint goal.
  • Continuous improvements, if any, are based on insights from previous reviews and retrospectives.
  • Consensus-based agreements are achieved and activities are framed around those via working agreements and Scrum rules.
Have I missed any other activities of interest? I am sure I have missed some.

What other activities do you know that prevail and continue to hamper Agile transformation in the industry?

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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