Five Rules for an Effective Daily Scrum

March 13, 2019
4 minute read

Of all the Scrum ceremonies, the “Daily Scrum” is the easiest one and the one that gets adopted first when an organization migrates to Scrum. You may hear jokes about the name of the process like “Scrum-but”, “Water-scrum” or “Scrummer-fall”. It’s a humorous attempt to show that we know it’s an imperfect mix of frameworks. In some cases, a “daily standup” is simply inserted into a process and, somehow, this mix is mis-interpreted as Scrum. This combination indicates an organization in transition.

The good news is that we’re getting better at Scrum and agility. Scrum is no longer an unknown quantity and some three-quarters of I.T. organizations globally report using an agile process.

The Daily Scrum is the easiest to adopt but it’s also the easiest to neglect. In my consulting, I remind teams that the purpose is to inspect progress, not to solve problems. You have all day for that.

I add some simple techniques to the Daily Scrum to improve it. Here are mine:

1.  Prepare by writing notes.

Write down your points before the Daily Scrum. This will ensure economy when speaking and that you won’t forget anything.

2.  Use a timer (for new teams or those new to Scrum) and time box it.

Fifteen minutes isn’t much time to discuss but it is enough – even on large teams. Someone (Scrum Master) can display a timer on a smartphone. This is a reminder to the speaker that they have to limit and share their time. Do the math: an 8-person team makes for about 90 seconds for each team member.

Strictly time box the Daily Scrum. This will develop the discipline of focus. Soon, the Team will speak up with things like, “I can help with that” or “Let’s take that offline”. These actions help cut short the discussions to fit within the time box.

3.  Be Specific.

Be specific when discussing your work. Speak about the tasks and backlog items on the board, not in generalities. Do the items have identifying names or numbers? Mention them. This helps the rest of Team keep up with you.

4.  Trifecta.

Use the three questions:

  1. “What did I complete yesterday?”
  2. “What will I do today?”
  3. “What are my impediments?”

You could skip over what you completed yesterday, because you shared your plan – yesterday – with the team. So, if your work impacted anyone, they would have said something. However, it won’t hurt to remind the team what you accomplished. Did you keep yesterday’s note?

On the last question, it’s common to hear, “No blockers.” But is that really true? Or is that team member reluctant to stand out? Try reversing it once in a while. That is, ask the team member if they need help. “Can I help you with that?” This builds trust and transparency and helps overcome the reluctance to ‘ask for directions’.

5.  Stop reporting!

The Daily Scrum is for the team. It is not a report to managers or other teams. The team is free to invite others, but it is a development team meeting. If you ‘report’ to a manager, they may think that you’ve given them licence to direct you; You have not.

Keep this discipline to remind the organization that your team is self-organizing. It soon becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the Scrum Guide, there aren’t many rules for the Daily Scrum. They’re simple:

  • The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team.
  • The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity.
  • The Scrum Master ensures that the Development Team has the meeting, but the Development Team is responsible for conducting the Daily Scrum.
  • The Daily Scrum is an internal meeting for the Development Team

If you’re struggling with your Agile adoption, we at BERTEIG can help with customized training or coaching for your team. Our services can help you deliver the best results for your organization.

This is part two in a series of simple rules for Scrum ceremonies that is intended to help improve your practice. Part one was “Five Rules for Effective Backlog Refinement” and was published exclusively to our REALAgility Newsletter subscribers (you can subscribe here).


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Berteig Consulting

Empower Your Entire Organization with BERTEIG Consulting in Agile, Scrum, Kanban, SAFe and LEAN.

Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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