10 Tips for a Great Daily Scrum Meeting

August 18, 2012

The daily scrum meeting is a quick daily meeting that helps the development team members organize their day. During the daily scrum, team members make three statements:

  • Yesterday, I completed…
  • Today, I will…
  • The things blocking my progress are…

It's a powerful tool that keeps your project moving. At the same, it is also easy for the meeting to turn into one of those meetings; Meetings that don't add any value.
To prevent this from happening and to help you optimize your daily scrums,  here are10 suggestions:

  1. Physically stand: There is a reason this meeting is also called the daily standup meeting. Standing seems to help people focus for short and high-energy meetings such as the daily scrum. Combining this with #2 can help you develop new habits if your team has a history of sitting during the daily standup.
  2. Stand around the task board: Having people point at the stories they are talking about is always more powerful than simply mentioning them verbally.
  3. Ask an additional question: In addition to the three statements, also ask: "How confident are you that you will get it done today?" People often complete statement #3 by saying they have no blocks. However, seconds later they often admit that they are only 50% confident that they will complete the story. Use this if your team members report no impediments for a while, but work doesn't seem to be moving along as fast as it should.
  4. Stick to the 15 minutes time-box: If your meetings take longer than 15 minutes people will start getting bored and are more likely to feel this meeting doesn't add any value for them. This normally indicates that something is wrong: maybe the team is too big, or maybe team members are using the meeting to solve problems instead of simply flagging them.
  5. Start and end the meeting on time: Daily standups often start late because the scrum master (or somebody else) is late. Start on time. Don't delay just because someone can't make it. Nothing says "this meeting is important" more than starting on time, even if 2/3 of people are not there yet.
  6. No distractions: Ensure everybody's focus is on the meeting. Don't fiddle around with your phone, or answer email, and definitely stop coding. It's worth it! Staying focused helps the meeting stay short and on track. It also demonstrates respect to your fellow team members.
  7. Defer to the 16th minute: Make sure you don't use the standup to solve problems. Instead, defer problem solving to the 16th minute, ie: after the daily scrum. This is even more important if your scrum team is distributed and your daily meetings take place over the phone.
  8. Keep the team engaged: People get bored easily, especially of repetitive things. Spice up the daily scrum meeting a little by introducing some uncertainty. For example, by passing around a token indicating whose turn it is to speak. This will keep them on their toes and engaged.
  9. Stop attending when it becomes a status update: Should your standup meeting ever turn into one of those meetings, stop attending. Sometimes, voting with your feet is the best way to facilitate change and make people realize something is wrong. And frankly, your time is probably better spent focusing on development anyway.
  10. Say thank you: Whenever a colleague has helped you or done something nice for you, acknowledge it. Nothing builds rapport and a good working relationship more than a simple "thank you!"