In this episode of Trainer Talk – the supplemental series to the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast – Sam Falco, a Professional Scrum Trainer, addresses the question, “What does an effective Daily Scrum look like?”
Recently, I saw a great question on Twitter from Ebenezer Ikonne (I love following him because he often asks thought-provoking questions about agility, in both theory and in practice). His question that day was about the practice of daily standups. Here’s what he asked:
Now I’m curious…
Is there anyone in my network who has experienced/participated/facilitated/observed…a standup done well? possibly consistently?
If yes, would you mind describing what it looked like?
—Eb (@eikonne) April 26, 2020
Effective Daily Scrums
I thought that was a great question because the Daily Scrum is so often a ritual devoid of meaning other than people standing around and giving a status report to someone else – often the Scrum Master.
I responded with a short thread describing an experience with one of my teams years ago that was a very positive and very effective use of the Daily Scrum. I think that it’s worth repeating here and elaborating upon it.
The team in question had been practicing Scrum for quite some time pretty successfully. We were delivering on a regular basis. We were delivering fairly high-quality stuff. But our Daily Scrum fell into the typical rhythm: The development team members took turns answering the classic three questions, and then it would be on to the next person without really collaborating. This was because what we were doing most of the time was merely mentioning task IDs from our electronic tool: “Yesterday I finished 1037. Today, I’m going to pick up 1052, and if I finish that I’ll get started on 1053. No impediments.”
We were following the Scrum Guide, but only in a rote fashion. One day, the Product Owner attended our Daily Scrum because we’d asked him to be there to answer some questions about the scope of one of the PBIs. He said he was really confused at what he had just seen and asked if it was really helpful to us. We realized that it wasn’t and that we needed to change.
The next day, we started at the top of the Sprint backlog and talked about the first unfinished Product Backlog Item. We talked about what was remaining and what we still need to do to get this PBI completed. Could we do it today? Failing that, what could we do to advance its progress? When we finished talking about that item, we moved on to the next, and the next one after that, and so on, until our fifteen-minute time box expired.
As we continued this practice, the effect was dramatic: We came out of the Daily Scrum every day, energized instead of bored and disaffected. We were collaborating, which led to further collaboration throughout the day. Instead of people working on their individual tasks in silos, we were working together to deliver that integrated increment. We started finishing PBIs faster as a result.
We also very quickly realized that it was pointless to have more than a few PBIs in progress at any given time. We only had time to discuss three or four of them each day in the Daily Scrum. Previously, we had enacted a work-in-progress limit based on the number of tasks per person. Instead, we started limiting the number of PBIs in progress. That increased our focus on collaboration and on completing PBIs together, rather than getting tasks done. The change of focus helped our throughput increase and it increased our quality.
We changed from a mechanical, “by-the-book” practice of the Daily Scrum to one that honors the spirit of Scrum, which is true team collaboration. Although we weren’t individually answering the “three questions,” we were still answering them – as a team.
If your Daily Scrum is stale or you feel as though it isn’t providing value, try changing it up. Ask yourself how you can structure the discussion around what the whole team needs to do today in order to get a little closer to the Sprint goal.
Let us know what you thought about this supplemental episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner. If you’re interested in training, visit agilethought.com/training or call us at 877.514.9180 to learn more. And if you have a question you want us to answer on the next Trainer Talk episode, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.