As we all know, daily stand-up meetings, also referred to as Daily Scrums, are one of the most important sprint ceremonies, leading to the completion of committed user stories. I prefer to think of the Daily Scrum as a synchronization meeting. Team members are synchronizing their work: Here's what I did yesterday and what I think I'll do today. A Daily Scrum will feel energizing. Team members will leave the meeting feeling enthusiastic about the progress they and others have made.
Despite the sixth principle of the Agile Manifesto, "The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-face conversation," for distributed teams this is not possible. Conducting Daily Scrums when team members are in the same time zone and speak the same language is much simpler than for a team with members spread across multiple countries and time zones, having many different languages and cultures. Distributed Agile teams require a different level of attention, especially when they are newly forming.
Distributed Scrum teams can be classified into three major types:
- Scrum teams in the same time zone
- Scrum teams with overlapping time zones
- Scrum teams with no overlapping time zones
Techniques for driving Daily Scrums
Below are the various techniques that you can follow to drive more effective Daily Scrums for cases a and b above.
- Deal with the time zone, choosing the most convenient time for all teams that is possible.
- Identify and attack blockers between Scrums.
- Use any Agile planning tool (Altassian JIRA, IBM Rational Team Concert, Hewlitt Packard ALM, Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, Rally, or VersionOne). The advantages of using an Agile planning tool are that everybody is on the same page, and during the stand-up meeting members can walk through each of the tasks or user stories with everybody being well aware of where they are. Everyone can see the status information across time zones as soon as it is entered.
- Educate the team about the importance of muting the telephone while another distributed team member is updating.
- Make stand-ups a topic of the team's retrospectives.
- Consider the logistics for Daily Scrums that are directly related to communication. Good communication can be achieved by teleconference, with a computer screen shared with all attending team members who can view the team progress by using the Agile planning tool, as mentioned above, or by video conferencing, which will be little bit more difficult because of setting up and securing a room within the facility every day.
- The team and the ScrumMaster (SM) should strive to understand all the blockers. The SM makes sure that all these blockers are addressed straight away after the Daily Scrum, in case another meeting is required to remove the blockers.
- Take Daily Scrum notes.
- This helps distributed team members to overcome language problems and to plan and learn. Chat tools and Wiki help distributed teams facilitate Daily Scrums in this way.
Make sure that if you are implementing any Agile planning tool, the information in it is up to date prior to the stand-up meeting, irrespective of whether the team is distributed or colocated.
Teams with no overlapping time zones
The above points hold good for the Scrum teams within the same time zone and overlapping time zones (e.g., India and Europe), but not for teams with no overlapping time zones (e.g., Asia and U.S.). So, how do you handle distributed Daily Scrums with no overlapping time zones?
- Hold the Daily Scrum each day at an hour that is inconvenient for one side or the other. Rotate the burden of the inconvenience from one location team to the other every month or so, based on the Scrum teams' receptiveness.
- If it is difficult to hold the meeting according to the above conditions, identify one team member and request that he or she write down the updates and share them with the other location team.
- (This one will be costly:) Record the Daily Scrum at every location and share the recording with the other team. Before the start of the Daily Scrum, your team can walk through the other team's updates.
- Conduct Daily Scrum through documentation.