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The Two-Minute Wonder

One way to spice up the Daily Scrum

27 October 2015


We've all heard about or taken part in daily stand-up meetings, or Daily Scrums -- many of them. We've learned these are timeboxed meetings, usually lasting 15 minutes, when the team discusses their activities and plans the day ahead.

A boring ritual? A status update? If you think of the Daily Scrum that way, you're not alone. I've read descriptions of them as "status update meetings" -- an idea I strongly oppose. The Daily Scrum is not a status update meeting, but such descriptions do identify a common perception and reflect how the Daily Scrum is often used.
 

Alignment

I heard a Scrum trainer explain aptly that the Daily Scrum must be used for alignment -- aligning the progress with the expectation. The better the alignment, the better the chances of delivering what is expected. So the Daily Scrum helps teams indicate their progress, identify obstacles, and notify their next action item or items.

While alignment between the product owner and the team happens in Daily Scrums and sprint reviews, alignment within the team occurs as the individuals work together closely over a period of time. Team members become aware of each other's progress and develop a deeper understanding of the product. Thus the product evolves as the individuals work as one team.

So, given that team members are already aligned, it is quite possible that they treat the Daily Scrum as a "status update" meeting. Why then, one may ask, is the Daily Scrum even necessary?
 

Is the Daily Scrum really needed?

However much the teams are aligned within, there are always work items that slip through the cracks, or differences in understanding start to rise to the surface. Two gaps that commonly occur, for example, are:
  • There is a difference between the product owner's expectation and the team's understanding.
  • There is inadequate information about integration points with other teams.
The Daily Scrum helps plug these gaps, and do so effectively. So yes, Daily Scrums are absolutely necessary!
 

Make it interesting

Recently, I suggested to my team that we spend two additional minutes in the Daily Scrum. What for? So that any one who wanted to could share an interesting technology update (like this) or a popular project (like this one).

The team questioned whether we would lose focus by discussing things "outside" work. I agree that it's worth questioning; focus is good and important. Focus helps add value to the end user. But while adding value to the customer, all of us must gain knowledge, not only about the current business at hand but also about "revolutionary technologies" around us. My idea was to simply introduce new thoughts now and then. Team members interested in these ideas might find themselves discussing them during their breaks, and learn even more.

I've seen a lot of excitement in my team ever since we started this activity. Do you have ways to make the Daily Scrums interesting meetings to look forward to? Please share them!
 

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: 4.4 (5 ratings)

Comments

Tim Baffa, CSM, 10/27/2015 9:29:21 AM
"... focus is good and important. Focus helps add value to the end user"

Focus is actually one of the 5 core Scrum values, not just a "nice to have" quality.

Personally, I would refrain from expanding the Daily Scrum meeting to include any discussion of items or topics outside of the current sprint (i.e. - 'Focus'). This does not mean that there isn't great value in information sharing between team members, but such discussions should take place outside of the Daily Scrum (i.e. - 'Focus').

The Daily Scrum meeting should serve as THE opportunity for the "entire" team to touch base and share information around sprint progress. Perhaps in a very mature Scrum environment, this type of communication happens more frequently, but for a vast majority of teams, the Daily Scrum serves as the key place and time to facilitate team alignment. The true value of the Daily Scrum is not to help the team plug gaps identified as a result of inadequate story grooming.

I have found significant success in leading teams to conduct Daily Stand-ups when driven by story discussion, and not by the traditional team member approach of “What I did, what I have planned, and what issues I have”. That always seemed like a contradiction to me – we promote the “team” concept in Scrum, yet we conduct our daily stand-ups through individual roll call.

"Focus" the team’s attention on the sprint work, and what needs to be done to move each story to completion. In the end, the customer doesn’t care about individual team member contributions or issues. The customer is interested in the final product – the “business value” that the TEAM is creating.
Santosh Shaastry, CSP,CSPO, 10/27/2015 11:16:02 PM
Tim, thank you for your comments. The idea I proposed is NOT to disrupt the proceedings of the stand up meeting. Rather, I am suggesting that we spend two additional minutes to expand knowledge.

"the customer doesn’t care about individual team member contributions or issues": Remember "People over process" as one of the key Agile principles. It should not matter whether customer cares about the team members as long as we deliver what they ask for. And that should not stop us from ensuring team members add value to themselves!
Alpesh Shah, CSM, 10/28/2015 2:57:42 PM
The Daily Scrum meeting is where the team comes to commutate. Taking more times for The Daily Scrum will reduce the team’s efficiencies.

The Daily Scrum (stand up) is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours. The Development Team tracks the total work remaining in the Sprint Backlog items at least for every Daily Scrums, which helps to monitor Sprint Progress.

The stand-up is where each team member makes a report of yesterday’s success, a commitment to the rest of the team of the progress to be made today, and a chance to head off any blocks to progress after a maximum of one day. In other words to make it more effective, team members should concentrate on following three questions only:

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

In any reasonably sized scrum team, this should only take 10 to 15 minutes.

The purpose of the meeting is neither a general communication meeting nor a project management meeting. The intent is for the pigs on the team to feel the other members supports them if there are blocks and some level of personal commitment for their days work. If it is going well the team will self-motivate to get the tasks done on time.

It would be difficult to follow principles/rules when team is new to Agile however, over the period of time it learns empirically.
Santosh Shaastry, CSP,CSPO, 10/29/2015 10:58:30 PM
Alpesh, thank you for reiterating the daily stand up in theory. Thoughts shared in my article are not about the duration or even the intent behind doing daily stand-ups. We definitely need the daily stand-up meeting.

My practical experience has taught me how, in this part of the world that I work in, after few months of going through the routine, team does not find the meeting interesting. I am just suggesting a way to make it a sync-up meeting plus a place to learn something exciting!
Tim Baffa, CSM, 10/30/2015 9:27:13 AM
Santosh, it is a little concerning that you continue to refer to your team's opinion of their daily stand-ups as "uninteresting". Your "solution" doesn't address this root issue.

Anyone can make daily stand-ups more interesting by introducing other topics or re-using the time for other purposes. However, that seems more of a "workaround" to the problem, and not something generated from a Shu-Ha-Ri understanding of Daily Stand-ups.

An IT analogy would be like re-using fields in a database for different purposes. Can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? Absolutely not.

To me, this is a red flag ripe for further discussion.

- Are the team members focused during the meeting (no laptops, phones, etc)?

- Do team members stand during the stand-up?

- Are there any discussions about issues or topics that are outside of the current sprint work? Such discussions must be tabled until after the meeting, in the interest of Focus (meeting purpose) and Respect (other team member's time), which are two of the 5 core Scrum values

- When are your daily stand-ups scheduled? Beginning of day? End of day? It has been my experience that team engagement is much better earlier in the day, when team members discuss what they plan to do, as opposed to the end of the day, when it devolves into more of a "recap" overview (i.e. - status)

- Are team members collaborating (swarming, pair programming, etc), or are sprint stories being worked on in isolation?


I would again reiterate that re-using time at the end of the daily stand-up is not a recommended approach. Schedule such valuable discussions at a separate time. If the Daily Stand-ups finish early, give the team members a few minutes back! The 15-minute time limit is not mandatory.

Don't run the risk of subjecting your team members to something that one team member may find interesting, but others may not care about. What if more than one team member wants to introduce something? How do you choose? Limiting this time to one speaker/topic may alienate others who also want to discuss items. And if you allow all topics to be discussed during this time, you will likely exceed your 2-minute timebox for such discussion.

Sorry, but there is too much variation and risk with this practice to see the benefit.
Santosh Shaastry, CSP,CSPO, 10/30/2015 11:07:22 PM
Tim, appreciate your perspective. Any routine, over a perios of time, does get boring. I accept it. Why do you think there is too much variation and risk with this practice to see the benefit. Did you try it out and found something that you may want to share? And it is not difficult to keep the discussions to two minutes - My team does it!

And you are correct - what one member finds interesting, others may not - this is why . However when the discussions are in the area of common interest based on mutual understanding, things do work out.
Alpesh Shah, CSM, 11/5/2015 10:27:28 AM
@ Santosh, The purpose of reiterating was to evangelize the benefits of Daily Scrum to ensure its smooth adoption.

Scrum is a framework. You introduced something as stand-ups turned out "uninteresting”. However, it appears that you are moving away from benefits (IMHO).

You are moving away from Simplicity (IMHO). Team found 2 minutes of non-project related thing(s) more important than 15 minutes of opportunity to synchronize activities.
Santosh Shaastry, CSP,CSPO, 11/6/2015 11:54:59 AM
Alpesh, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Team did not find two additional minutes of discussion more important than the daily stand-up.

Rather, team used two additional minutes to realize the value of the first fifteen minutes.

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