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How to Avoid Daily Scrum Traps

20 April 2017

Jairaj Yadwad
HSBC Software Development (India) Private Limited

Is this your Daily Scrum?

Do any of these scenarios describe what's going on in your team's Daily Scrum?
  • The ScrumMaster wants the team to attend the Daily Scrum, and team members are either hiding or busying themselves with other tasks.
  • The ScrumMaster asks the three traditional questions (yesterday, today, and impediments) of the team members, asserting his or her influence of the C2 (command-and-control) approach.
  • The ScrumMaster assigns user stories/tasks to team members during the Daily Scrum.
  • Team members provide the ScrumMaster with daily reporting or status reporting.
  • The Daily Scrum doesn’t start or end on time.
  • Meeting rooms are booked and invitations and documentations of the Daily Scrum are sent.
  • The Daily Scrum is held at various places in the office and at different times.
  • Team members either delay the meeting or wait for everyone to join the Daily Scrum before starting.
  • Team members wait for the ScrumMaster to join so that he or she can initiate the Daily Scrum.
  • During the Daily Scrum, either the ScrumMaster or team members switch to problem-solving mode or dive into detailed discussions.
  • Team members are not prepared, so they're searching for thoughts on issues, progress, or impediments.
  • Too many people attend the Daily Scrum.
  • The Daily Scrum is held sitting down.
  • The meeting is akin to a waiting-to-talk situation.
  • After the Daily Scrum, if we ask one of the team members about progress on any of the user stories, we get responses such as, "I am not aware," "I don’t know who is working on that user story," or "I don’t know whether person X is working on that," and so on.
  • The ScrumMaster is making decisions, proposing, and accepting or rejecting the team’s proposals, or team members are waiting for the ScrumMaster's decisions.
If these scenarios are a regular part of your Daily Scrum, then you are falling into traps — traps of doing Agile. These are not good signs of an effective Daily Scrum, and this is not the Daily Scrum that we want to achieve as our ultimate marker of agility.

In a competitive world in which organizations are in a hurry to implement Agile, employees concentrate only on easy practices, such as event/ceremony implementations (a few timeboxed events). They don't always think about the right ways of handling them, such as understanding the intentions of events and ceremonies, given the way that they are designed.

So do what is right, not what is easy.

Conducting ceremonies without understanding their purpose will lead us into the traps of simply doing (rather than understanding) Agile. If we want to move from just doing Agile to being Agile, it's important to understand the purpose of these different ceremonies.

So, let’s try to understand the what, the how, and the why of the Daily Scrum.

The what

The Scrum Guide defines the Daily Scrum as a 15-minute timeboxed event for the development team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours. This is done by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting the work that could be done before the next one.

The how

  • From development team, for development team, and by the development team
  • Yesterday, today, and obstacles
  • Daily, same time, and same place
  • Maximum 15 minutes in duration, run standing

The why

  • Why from the development team? The team knows exactly what are they working on.
  • Why for the development team? To inspect and adapt themselves to first achieve the sprint goal and then to track it.
  • Why by the development team? As a self-organizing team, you are collectively responsible for collaborating with each other, and this ceremony reminds you to do just that.
  • Why the three questions? To synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours, detailing any impediments that need to be removed so that the sprint goal can be achieved.
  • Why daily? That optimizes the probability that the development team will meet the sprint goal by using a daily inspect-and-adapt.
  • Why the same time and same place? This helps the team avoid complexity and unnecessary overhead (e.g., meeting schedules, invites, room bookings, etc.).
  • Why a maximum of 15 minutes, and standing? To keep it short and stick to the target.

Avoiding the traps

A paradigm shift from person-centric to work-in-progress-centric

Usually these questions are asked in the Daily Scrum:
  • What did you work on yesterday?
  • What will you work on today?
  • What is impeding your work?
The problem with these questions is that they focus on the person and not on the work item. They are similar to the command-and-control–type questions, so we fall into the trap of the ScrumMaster asking team members about their work updates. Also, these question-and-answer discussions don’t reveal useful information about the progress made on work items.

For example, person A is working on one user story that will take two to three days. So, in the Daily Scrum, you might hear, "I was working on this XYZ user story. Today, I will continue to work, and I don’t have any impediments to report." On the next day, you might hear the same answer to the question. Will this team realize what’s going on here? I doubt it.

Because these are only person-centric work updates (with only the progress that was made on work items from the person's perspective), other team members are not at all aware of what that member is working on and will not be bothered if it is continued in this way. Therefore, the Scrum Team continues to work in silos.

What we need is a paradigm shift in our earlier understandings — that is, we need to shift our focus from person to work items and correlate the latter with the sprint goal. This will give every team member a broader perspective on the progress made toward achieving the sprint goal.

How we create the paradigm shift

The development team facilitates the paradigm shift by answering the following questions:
  • How did yesterday’s accomplishment help the team achieve the sprint goal?
  • How will today’s accomplishment help the team achieve the sprint goal?
  • What impediments are in the way of achieving the team’s sprint goal?
When these items are discussed in the Daily Scrum, everyone will concentrate on either the progress made or on the user stories/tasks, and how they are going to help achieve the sprint goal. There will be no more individual goals, only one common goal — the team’s sprint goal.

This approach also offers the opportunity to embed in the team a work-pull mechanism. This is referred to as being Agile.

Additional ways to avoid traps

  • Meet daily where you work, at the same time and same place.
  • Run the Daily Scrum as a stand-up and keep it to a maximum of 15 minutes or less.
  • Signal the end, and signal a diversion.
  • Create a "parking space" for discussion topics.
  • Make sure the ScrumMaster redirect decisions/proposals back to the team.
  • Start and end on time.
  • Make sure everyone knows that the development team is responsible for conducting the Daily Scrum.
Happy agility!

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: 4.7 (16 ratings)


Anonymous, 7/5/2017 4:11:22 PM
This article is right on the money. I have taken copious notes.
Anonymous, 7/5/2017 4:12:03 PM
Anonymous, 7/5/2017 4:12:42 PM
This article is right on the money. I have taken copious notes.

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