Mastering the Daily Scrum

Mastering the Daily Scrum

5,000.  That’s the number of daily scrums, or stand ups, I’ve been a part of in my career.  There’s not a lot of things I’ve done 5,000 times so I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned.

First, let’s remind ourselves why we’re there.  Why have the meeting at all?  Why every day?  I like how Jeff Sutherland describes it as an opportunity to re-plan.  We know more today than we did yesterday so let’s use this new information to our advantage.  Things have changed, and we’ve met some of our goals and missed others.  Let’s chat and discuss our new reality so we can align and collaborate as a team.

With that in mind, here’s how I help teams with mastering the daily scrum:

  • Use the rule of 24.  To keep the team focused, discuss only what happened in the last 24 hours and what we’ll be accomplishing in the next 24.  If members want to discuss something outside those bounds, ask them to hold it for after the daily scrum.
  • Conversation over ceremony.  Organic and emergent conversations that happen in team areas are rich and informative.  Try to create this same energy in the daily scrum.  Instead of asking team members to give updates one at a time, ask probing questions that get team members talking to one another and then shut up and listen.  My rule of thumb is the less I talk, the better.
  • Keep it short.   Most of my stand ups last 5 to 7 minutes.  If any last longer, it’s usually because of rabbit holes or a topic that only involve two members.  To help with those circumstances, try these questions to maintain focus.  Encourage the team to use them as well:
    • Can we discuss those details after the stand up?
    • Who is interested in this conversation?  (Likely only two or three will raise their hands.)
  • Focus on the after party.  The best conversations are those that happen after the meeting ends.  Encourage team members to collaborate on the details after–not at–the stand up.  Write topics down on a nearby white board that the team brought up but didn’t delve into.
  • Minutes aren’t for stand ups.  Minutes add a sense of formality that interfere with the atmosphere of the conversation.  Further, if we cannot remember what we discussed at this morning’s stand up, we probably weren’t listening closely enough.
  • Align the conversation with the task board.  Anything worth discussing belongs on the task board.  For physical task boards, encourage team members to touch tasks or stories they bring up.  For virtual boards, highlight them with the mouse.  If the update isn’t a task, create it.  Of course, this tip assumes the work contributed to the sprint’s goal, which leads me to my final tip.
  • Be honest.  If our work yesterday had nothing to do with the sprint, say so.  Say, “I didn’t get any sprint work done yesterday because…”  Mentioning these distractions help us understand our obstacles, and this transparency will help us resolve them.

I wish I had more time to offer up some more tangible tricks and tweaks that I’ve successfully employed at the daily scrum, but I’ve talked enough for one day.  In my next blog post, I’ll continue today’s conversation and offer up tools that can help teams more effectively communicate during their daily scrum.  In the meantime, if you have tips for how you’ve helped teams with mastering the daily scrum, I hope to read them in the comments below.

Until next time.

Update:  You can find those tangible tricks and tweaks I mentioned above in my blog post titled Tools to Facilitate the Daily Scrum.

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4 thoughts on “Mastering the Daily Scrum”

  1. It has always helped me professionally to know your perspective on scrum and agile. Your experiences and encounters are quite interesting and realistic.

    Keep writing Tanner, it’s a pleasure to read your thoughts!

  2. I’m from Holland and I would like to hear some tips to encourage introvert people wich i can use during the scrumproces.

    1. Hi from the U.S., Jantine. I write about how I’m an introvert myself at this blog post.

      My point is that I can relate to your question. Silent writing is a great way to get them involved in the retro. When introverts are offered the chance to jot down their thoughts in writing, they’re often more comfortable sharing them with the group. Of course, such a technique wouldn’t work in the stand up. Instead, your team should work diligently to create a safe and trustful environment for introverts. A Scrum Master can ask an introvert their opinion on some matters, but I find it more meaningful when team members are the ones asking for an introvert’s opinion. Over time, they’ll begin to learn that the team is a safe place to contribute their thoughts, and it won’t be necessary to call upon them directly.

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