Effective Daily Scrums


Are our Daily Scrums effective? Daily meetings are the heartbeat of a Scrum sprint, but it’s easy to lose focus… they can become ineffective boring meetings. 

As an exercise, let me share with you some questions and thoughts that examine the effectiveness of running a Daily Scrum:

Owned by the Team

  1. Do team members consider the meeting useful? Ask them anonymously, maybe using something like a Google Form. If they don’t consider it useful, don’t remove the meeting, take actions to make it more effective. 
  2. Not a status meeting. Focus shouldn’t be on individual status reports, but on the deliverables. Let’s remember that a good sprint plan makes people work together, so each deliverable (i.e. User Story or work item) is being worked on by several team members.
  3. The meeting is owned by the team. They are the ones who speak, ask for help and offer to support other developers. The team is the owner of their plan.
  4. Are you reducing distractions? These are some examples of distractions: non-team members attend and interact during the meeting; tasks are only examined at the individual level; there is no big picture analysis; there are no requests for collaboration; everyone is on their own.
  5. Is everyone engaged? Watch each team member during the meeting. Ask them if they are remote. Are people interested in every topic raised during the meeting? If some are not relevant, maybe you can split the team or tackle those topics ‘offline’. This meeting should never be boring for anyone.

Effective meeting

  1. Is the meeting brief? Is it done in less than 15 minutes? Standing up during the meeting will ensure it stays on point and short.
  2. Is the team small? Some daily meetings are ineffective simply because the group that meets is way too big. Scrum promotes teams of 5 to 9 members. If your team is larger, consider splitting it. 
  3. Issues that need deeper clarification are tackled outside the meeting? We should motivate team members to help each other and not wait for these meetings to speak to each other. Collaboration is the goal. Just don’t discuss the deeper topics during this meeting, but afterwards.

Tasks

  1. Do tasks have estimates? A client team I met was running a Sprint, but estimates were not required for tasks. So, there was no way to actually know if they were making good progress. My advice is to always estimate your tasks in days or hours. The goal is not to shoot ourselves in the foot, but to have a reference point to inspect and adapt. That is part of the Scrum principle of Transparency. 
  2. Are tasks small enough? Long running tasks make daily Scrums feel monotonous. I like to use 0.5 and 1 day for task estimates. This way, we can reflect progress daily.
  3. Progress for each user story should be clear. What’s done, what’s left, and impediments should be shared by the team. Help your team to focus on their goal, not on individual reporting. The three questions each team member should answer are a guideline for that. Sometimes I prefer to answer the three questions for each User Story as a team. This way, not every team member is required to speak, but we can discuss current progress.
  4. Burn down charts are updated during the meeting. There should be some way of visualizing when we are not making the expected progress so we can adapt the plan. Burn down charts are great at that. Tracking the amount of estimated effort remaining against the expected progress helps us to think about how to simplify and achieve the goal of delivering the User Story. 

The Scrum Master

  1.  Is the Scrum Master role clearly defined (assigned to just one person)? Is he or she empowered to raise their hand and ask team members to be brief? Is there a previous agreement for the meeting rules?
  2. Are we meeting in front of a visual board? Visualizing the development process is one of the keys we have learned from Kanban and Lean. The task board shouldn’t be just some cards floating around. There should be a clear logical sequence, priorities and clear responsibilities for who is doing each task.
  3. Does the Scrum Master enforce the rules? For example, is he or she empowered to ask someone to remain on topic and be brief? Can they remember kindly that only team members are allowed to speak during the meeting? Is the team aware that they are supposed to speak in turns? The Scrum Master needs to be focused on the effectiveness of the meeting.
  4. Impediments and issues are being tracked? Is the team clear where the Scrum Master is tracking issues and impediments? This may be a list where we track things such as creation dates, the person responsible for the issue, decisions, actions, due dates, impact and priorities. Pay attention also to risks, and be ready to track them too.

I ran this article through a word cloud generator, and the key word is Team. Let’s remember that!