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This eBook, part of the Scrum Repair Guide series, contains useful, practical tips for facilitating successful daily scrums in real-life by Mike Cohn.
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What is the daily scrum?
In Scrum, on each day of a sprint, the team holds a type of Scrum meeting called the daily scrum (you might also have heard it called a daily standup or daily stand up meeting).
Daily scrums are typically held in the same location and at the same time each day. Ideally, a daily scrum meeting is held in the morning, as it helps set the context for the coming day's work.
These scrum meetings are strictly time-boxed to 15 minutes. This keeps the discussion brisk but relevant. To keep the conversation moving, some teams have even resorted to holding weighted balls!
Yet, while the timebox is important, for remote teams it sometimes helps to go past the 15-minute timebox. (You might also be interested in these other tips for running a virtual daily scrum.)
Who attends the daily scrum?
All committed team members are required to attend scrum meetings. To most, this means the entire Scrum team attends (developers, product owner, and Scrum Master).
What does committed mean? There is an old joke in Scrum about a chicken and a pig that illustrates the differences between being committed and being involved. The basic premise is this: In a ham and eggs restaurant, the pig is committed because it will be cooked for dinner. The chicken, who is supplying eggs, is merely involved.
Scrum affords special status to those who are committed, those who are fully dedicated day-to-day in a project. Many teams enforce a rule in which only those who are committed are allowed to talk during the daily scrum meeting.
The team and Scrum Master are considered committed by nearly everyone in the Scrum community. There is some disagreement about the product owner. My view is that a product owner should be considered a dedicated participant of the project. (And should behave as one, too.)
So since both the Scrum Master and product owner are committed team members, they are expected to attend and participate, along with the rest of the development team members (or as the Scrum Guide puts it, developers).
Anyone else (for example, a departmental VP, a salesperson or a developer from another project) is allowed to attend, but is there only to listen. This makes Scrum meetings an excellent way for a Scrum team to disseminate information -- if you're interested in hearing where an item from the sprint backlog is at, or how the sprint goal is going, attend that day's meeting.
What is the goal of the daily scrum meeting?
The daily scrum meeting is used to inspect and adapt progress in a sprint. It is an opportunity for the team to inspect how it is progressing on the work of the sprint, and adapt as necessary to complete that work. The daily scrum is also the event where impediments to the sprint goal are shared (assuming the team has defined a single sprint goal).
Daily scrums are an essential component of teamwork, giving teams a defined time when people share information with and reinforce their accountability to one another.
Three questions of the daily scrum
During the daily scrum, each team member typically answers the following three questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What will you do today?
- Are there any impediments in your way?
By focusing on what each person accomplished yesterday and will accomplish today, the team gains an excellent understanding of what work has been done and what work remains.
The vast majority of teams conduct the daily scrum meeting by having each person answer the three questions in order. You answer all three, then the next person does, then the next and so on.
An interesting alternative that some teams find helpful is to talk through one product backlog item before moving on to the next. In this way, an individual may give an update at multiple different times during the same meeting.
The daily scrum is used to help teams sync up
A daily scrum is a synchronization meeting. Team members are synchronizing their work: Here's what I did yesterday and what I think I'll do today. How about you?
Daily scrums are not status meetings or status update meetings in which a boss is collecting information about who is behind schedule.
Two of my favorite tips running an effective daily scrum are these: 1) Scrum Masters, don't take notes. 2) Scrum Masters, don't make eye contact with someone giving an update.
Making eye contact is human nature. When we speak, we make eye contact with someone. It's only natural that a team member will look at the ScrumMaster; call it a legacy of too many years under traditional management but a lot of people on Scrum teams do look at their ScrumMasters a bit like managers to whom they need to report status.
By not making eye contact with someone giving an update, the ScrumMaster can, in a subtle way, prevent each report becoming a one-way status report to the ScrumMaster.
Each person's report is, after all, intended for all other team members.
Daily scrums reinforce team member accountability
A daily scrum is a meeting in which team members make commitments to each other.
If a programmer stands up and says, "Today, I will finish the data storage module," everyone knows that in tomorrow's meeting, he will say whether or not he finished. This has the wonderful effect of helping a team realize the significance of these commitments, and that their commitments are to one another, not to some far-off customer or salesman.
When done well, a daily scrum meeting will feel energizing. People will leave the meeting enthused about the progress they heard others make. (If your team members are instead advocating for making these meetings weekly, try one of these 4 ways to overcome daily scrum objections.)
A daily scrum is not, however, a problem-solving or issue resolution meeting. Issues that are raised are taken offline and usually dealt with by the relevant subgroup immediately after the meeting, a time some in Scrum call the sixteenth minute.
If meetings are running long, or turning into problem-solving sessions, try these two ways to end complaints about daily scrums.
What do teams do about impediments?
Any impediments that are raised in any scrum meeting become the ScrumMaster's responsibility to resolve as quickly as possible. Examples of typical impediments found during a daily scrum are:
- My ____ broke and I need a new one today.
- I still haven't got the software I ordered a month ago.
- I need help debugging a problem with ______.
- I'm struggling to learn ______ and would like to pair with someone on it.
- I can't get the vendor's tech support group to call me back.
- Our new contractor can't start because no one is here to sign her contract.
- I can't get the ____ group to give me any time and I need to meet with them.
- The department VP has asked me to work on something else "for a day or two."
In cases where the ScrumMaster cannot remove these impediments personally (e.g., usually the more technical issues), they still take responsibility for ensuring someone on the team does quickly resolve any action items.