10 tips to improve your Daily Scrum

Are you running Daily Scrums properly?
Here’s some basic ideas to help you improve them.

The Daily Scrum, this is the official term. But you might of heard some people refer to it as the daily stand-up, the stand-up or the huddle.

When done right, it is very valuable for the Development Team. When done badly it can become unbearable and a chore that people don’t want to do.

1. Stick to the 15 minutes timebox

The Daily Scrum has a timebox of 15 minutes, this is the maximum time taken, but it can be shorter. If your Daily Scrum is running over then it may be time to look at what is going on within it. As long as everyone is getting value it should be simple to keep within the timebox.

It’s not easy to interrupt someone talking, but if they are rambling and not adding value, don’t be afraid to jump in. There is plenty time outside of the Daily Scrum to have bigger conversations. Let’s try keep the Daily Scrum focused and stick to the timebox.

2. What are you saying?

The Daily Scrum is a chance for the team to inspect their progress towards the Sprint Goal and to plan the next 24 hours. The Development Team should be using their skills, knowledge and experience to plan out how they are going to continue progress towards the Sprint Goal. This may be as simple as a developer asking for help on a specific issue for example “Pair with me so we can get the work done”. Or it could be a developer holding someone else accountable, asking why they are working on something new when their previous work is still in progress.

The team should keep focus and avoid turning the conversations into status updates and rambling on about non-related things. They should avoid getting too technical as that could be discussed outside the Daily Scrum. Each time a person speaks they should be adding value.

3. To three questions or not to three questions

A common Daily Scrum process Development Teams tend to follow is the three questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  2. What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  3. Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

This is one way of conducting the meeting, but there is no prescribed way or format. Scrum merely gives an example of how you could run it. It’s down to the Development Team to run it as they see fit.

It is good to mix things up from time to time, change up how the team are conducting the Daily Scrum. One way is to focus on the Product Backlog Items, starting right to left and walk the board. This way every ticket gets talked about and isn’t missed. But if the team are working well together, no ticket should be ignored that’s in progress, regardless of how you conduct the Daily Scrum.

Another idea is to have the person who speaks next, start their first sentence with the last word the previous person used. Or how about asking everyone to close their eyes during the Daily Scrum? Maybe tell the team they can’t show their teeth during the entire meeting?

I realise these are corny, but give them a try and see what the outcome is.

4. Project managers are here!

The Daily Scrum is an internal meeting for the Development Team. This means that anyone outside of the Development Team that are present should not be disrupting it.

The ScrumMaster should also ensure others don’t disrupt things too. Without this level of protection or willingness to challenge. We run the risk of the Daily Scrum falling into a status update. This is a major factor in people starting to devalue the Daily Scrum. I prefer it if it’s only the Scrum team that is present. This includes the Product Owner. It’s always good to have that transparency across the whole Scrum team.

5. What time do we have it?

There is no prescribed time to have the Daily Scrum, as long as it is held at the same time and same place each day to reduce complexity. The specific time can be whatever the team are comfortable with.

If the idea is to inspect, plan and adapt for the next 24 hours then I find it is better to hold the Daily Scrum as soon as possible. In my experience if you are running the Daily Scrum at 11am or 1pm then it’s not going to have the same impact. The working day is already underway and conversations will of already been held.

I recommend asking the team what time they are all going to be present and then agree a time that suits everyone. I find the ideal time is between 9:15am and 10:15am in the morning.

Having the Daily Scrum between these times does help reduce potential issues. For example if traffic is bad and people are a late to get into work, chances are they won’t miss it.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

6. Does the ScrumMaster facilitate it?

A lot of people think that the ScrumMaster must facilitate the Daily Scrum. But this isn’t true, if the Development Team ask the ScrumMaster to facilitate then the ScrumMaster can. However as mentioned before, this is a meeting for the Development Team.

If we look at self-organising teams, they don’t need someone directing them and telling them what to do. If the team rely on a ScrumMaster to facilitate the Daily Scrum. They would become dependant on that person. If they aren’t available one day, it would throw a spanner in the works and it could disrupt the team.

This is a meeting for the Development Team

By allowing the ScrumMaster to facilitate, it removes the empowerment and self-organising element. The reliance on the ScrumMaster will cause issues and it will end up being more of a meeting rather than a valuable Scrum Event.

7. Let’s hold each other accountable

We are working with the framework of Scrum. Forming a Scrum team helps foster many values including Courage, Focus, Commitment, Respect and Openness, these are key.

The team should also practice empiricism, Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. Not being afraid to challenge each other, to have a voice and hold each other accountable.

We should be encouraging a no-blame culture, where we look to fail fast and learn from our failures only to improve going forward. Do not be afraid to challenge other members of the team during the Daily Scrum.

Having physical boards is great. Making visible the work helps the team hold each other accountable. For example if a team member is discussing work they are working on and it is sitting in the ‘To do’ column on the board. The accountability is already there for that person, it’s obvious and the team will know it.

8. Who speaks and when?

A difficult one for newer Scrum teams, who starts us off and who goes next. Nobody willing to talk or take that first step. Or others chatting amongst themselves when someone else is talking. The Daily Scrum should keep focus and it’s a great chance to inspect and adapt. Those present should listen to the person talking and respond only when required.

One tip is to use a talking ball, this can be any object that is used to symbolise when someone is speaking. If you have the talking ball, you speak, if you haven’t, you listen. I start off by passing the ball to someone, signalling the start. Then they choose who they pass the ball to next. There is accountability too, if you drop the ball because you weren’t paying attention, it will be obvious to everyone. Nobody wants to be that person.

9. Stand-up, sit down and location

Sometimes, the Daily Scrum gets called the stand-up. This is because when people have this meeting in person, it’s common practice to all stand up.

Standing up usually helps the team keep focus and also keep it within the timebox. You don’t want to be standing up for a long time. If you’re all co-located, get together and face each other around your Scrum Board. Nothing beats face to face communication. Not only will it be easier to understand each other and respond. You can also get a feel for body language and tone of voice easier.

Giving the whole team the same experience is good too. For example, nobody sitting on the phone at their desk whilst the rest of the team are in a room together. So if one person is on the phone working from home, everyone get on the phone, this way everyone has a good chance to get the same experience and nobody is left out. This is a good one, but I encourage everyone present to be face to face.

10. Be prepared ahead of time

Before you attend the Daily Scrum, I like people to be prepared. If you’re not prepared for what you need to say then you and the team might not get the best value out of the meeting. If you need to update the status on a ticket you’re working on, do so before the Daily Scrum.

There’s a huge learning curve to overcome when you’re used to being told what to do and when to do it for so long. It’s hard to step out of the ‘waiting to be told what to do’ mentality. Some people can’t and some people are unwilling to. Fear of failure or fear of being blamed are usually reasons why.

When you’re part of a Scrum team (or any team for that matter), you should be pushing to have a voice. Challenge each other, collaborate, seek fast feedback and introduce the practice of radical candor. Without encouraging teams to be self-organising, they are always going to rely on others.

The Daily Scrum is an ideal opportunity to start to change things for the better. I encourage you all to always question whether things can better and if so, how.

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Agile Coach| NLP Master Practitioner Coach | Ex User Experience Designer | Passionate about building self organising teams and humanising the workplace.

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