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9 Keys for Daily Scrums that Yield Results

by Dean Kynaston
daily scrum

The daily scrum is essential for delivering valuable product increments to customers. While not easy, like all scrum events, they can become better with practice. In this post, we’ll review the daily scrum along with each team member’s role and helpful tips to make them more effective. The daily scrum allows a team to plan the best day possible EVERY day!  
 

What is the daily scrum?

The Scrum Guide defines the daily scrum as:
 
“...a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours. This optimizes team collaboration and performance by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting upcoming Sprint work. The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity.
 
The Development Team uses the Daily Scrum to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and to inspect how progress is trending toward completing the work in the Sprint Backlog. The Daily Scrum optimizes the probability that the Development Team will meet the Sprint Goal. Every day, the Development Team should understand how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment by the end of the Sprint.”
 
In short, the daily scrum is an opportunity for the scrum team to inspect their progress and adjust their plan for achieving the sprint goal. It is for synchronization, coordination, inspection and adaptation. It is NOT for status reporting.
 
The reason daily scrums are not for status reporting is because the status is always transparent by looking at the product backlog and sprint backlog. The release and sprint burndown tell the team daily how they’re progressing toward their goal. Remember agile principle 7 - “Working software is the primary measure of progress.”

Team roles during daily scrum

daily scrum roles

The daily scrum is primarily for the development team to coordinate their work for the day, but the scrum master, product owner, and stakeholders may also attend. The scrum master may participate more than the product owner and stakeholders. Stakeholders should not speak or disrupt the development team’s conversation or flow. Scrum masters watch for interruptions as they shield the team.
 
The development team owns the daily scrum and uses it to plan and coordinate the best day possible each day. The “best day” meaning the team considers all the information they have, such as development progress, impediments, required organizational meetings, feedback from the previous day, etc. and makes adjustments to build the best plan for the day. 
 
They also own the sprint backlog, and as such, the development team members keep their task board updated throughout the day. If they identify new tasks, they add them. If tasks are no longer needed, they remove them. This makes the daily scrum easy since all work is visible and transparent.
 

During the daily scrum, the development team discusses:

  • What they did yesterday to help meet the sprint goal that matters for what they do today.
  • What they need to do today to support the development team in meeting the sprint goal.
  • The impediments that prevent the development team from reaching the sprint goal.

The development team is succinct in their comments, referencing their physically-displayed tasks as they talk to ensure everyone can contribute during the brief timebox. For example, “Yesterday I finished task x. Today I’ll be working on task y and could use some help from <insert team member name>. Also, I know we won’t have time to solve it now, but I no longer have access to the test environment, and I really need it.”  
 
The scrum master prepares the environment for the team (physically and virtually) to successfully have their daily scrum. The scrum master makes sure the scrum team’s progress is transparent through the sprint backlog, a sprint burndown chart, definition of done, and any agile artifacts useful to the scrum team. (We call these information radiators. They are always visible and accessible, radiating out to everyone). 
 
The scrum master also ensures sticky notes and pens are readily available in case sprint backlog adjustments are necessary. Having taught the team how to have an effective daily scrum, the scrum master now sits back and observes, watching for opportunities to coach the team. It’s also beneficial for the scrum master to share, at times, impediment resolution progress or escalations, looking for opportunities to understand impediment priority and suggestions from the team for removing them. 
 
Product owner participation is optional; however, most teams find the product owner’s involvement crucial. The product owner may be able to provide preventative guidance or clarifications that can quickly assist everyone.
 

Tips for daily scrums that yield results:

  1. Gather around the task board physically: As a team, learn to focus on the task board (sprint backlog) and speak to the posted tasks.  
  2. Avoid excessive pontifications: Team members who monopolize the team’s scarce daily scrum time frustrate teammates. As soon as this happens, it’s best to move this to an execution discussion that should occur after the daily scrum. Scrum masters observe for this, bringing the focus back to collaborating on the plan for the day.
  3. Signal impediment; don’t solve them: Use your brief time to broach impediments. You don’t have enough time to address them in just 15 minutes. 
  4. Collect after-scrum topics: Some teams choose to maintain a backlog of team topics to discuss after their daily scrum. Prioritize them and allow people to “vote with their feet” by leaving to work on their pulled task if the conversation doesn’t pertain to them.
  5. Use a talking stick: While the whole world can listen, only the person with the “talking stick” (squeaky toy, football, marker, etc.) can speak. Practice active listening. 
  6. Collaborate with your development teammates: While the scrum master may kickoff the daily scrum or ensure a prepared environment for the team’s conversation, they should step back and let the development team collaborate. Development team members should direct their comments to each other and NOT to the scrum master, product owner, or stakeholders listening as a status report.  
  7. Employ information radiators: Information radiators broadcast or radiate information to the team and stakeholders. They provide the transparency necessary for inspection and adaptation—key pillars of an empirical process control like scrum. This is only possible if everything the team will need is transparent. Aside from the task board (sprint backlog), likely information radiators include the product vision, roadmap, release goal, sprint goal, product backlog, burndown charts, definition of done, retrospective experiments, and more.
  8. Ask, “How do you feel?”: We recommend this additional daily question. Take a pulse of the team’s morale to see if anything needs to change that shouldn’t wait for the sprint retrospective. Happy teams build better products faster. 
  9. Lastly, and most importantly, stop hiding things from each other: Be transparent and open when you have questions, are stuck, need help, or can offer help. The team will only be as effective as their alignment with reality.

Scrum is a team sport

Scrum is a rugby metaphor, which matters. In rugby, a scrum looks like the picture below. 

rugby huddle
 
Each rugby team member locks arms, points in the same direction (the goal), and focuses singularity on the ball. Ken Schwaber, a co-creator of the scrum framework, also refers to the daily scrum using an American football metaphor of a huddle. The huddle allows the team to quickly coordinate on what each team member will do on the next play to move the ball down the field towards the goal.
 
In both cases, the teams are also having fun. There is little that can stop a team with this coordinated strength, focus, and momentum. Not even a Formula 1 race car!
 
Continually working to improve your daily scrum will strengthen your team’s overall performance. The Scrum Guide’s clarity and these are a great place to start. But more importantly, do what works best for your team. Use your retrospectives to make your daily scrum ever-improving. Your team will appreciate it, and your customers will even more.
 
Want to optimize your daily scrums? Contact us today to see how we can help.
 

Event Start Date: 
Friday, Aug 21, 2020

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