Let’s be honest here, more often than not our daily scrum (DS) runs over the ideal 15-minute mark which we all aim to cap it at. The reasons can be countless so instead of focusing on excuses, let’s focus on how we can use the time more effectively.
To begin, I’d like to clearly define what a DS should be to ensure we’re on the same page. A DS should be the following:
- No longer than 15 minutes
- Update progress on current sprint toward sprint goals
- Raise any impediments
- Reserve discussions and problem-solving conversations for afterwards
- BONUS: Make an effort to make it more engaging for the team
Now with that said, I’ll jump into my five tips for effective daily scrums
Short and Sweet Is Best
I’ll begin with the most obvious, your DS should be no longer than 15 minutes. Ensure that the team members understand the importance and value of keeping things short, sweet and more so, to the point. Topics or items that fall outside the clearly defined DS definition like full discussions, pair programming or problem-solving conversations must be arranged after the DS has wrapped up. Plus, if those conversations need to be arranged, that should only include the related persons as to not waste other people’s time.
Something that should be a given, yet bears stating is to be on time; being late and holding up the team is unprofessional and cannot be accepted as it will derail your target for an effective DS. It’s good for all team members to understand and acknowledge that often the DS needs a certain flow of information and if someone interrupts that flow, in this case by being late, it inevitably can hold up the entire DS. So be present and on time ready to participate!
Updates for the Current Sprint Only
The team should only talk about the work of the current sprint and how far we are to reaching its goals. Anything that is not related to the current sprint should be minimized or not even brought up to begin with. For example, for the future sprint topics, we can talk about this in the backlog refinement ceremony rather than during the DS.
You may be thinking… Why so strict? Well, to put it plainly, you need your team to focus on the task at hand and only that. The sprint needs to deliver on its intended goals and as the scrum master, you need to drive the team towards achieving those goals. The team’s forward thinking is appreciated, but their focus is best placed on that which needs doing now.
Concise Updates: Finished & Upcoming Items
A slight continuation here from my previous point, but with a twist. Of course, updates should be for the current sprint only. However, it’s vital that members understand their updates should be concise. A concise update should include not what a team member did, but what they actually accomplished yesterday and what they are aiming to accomplish today. We don’t need to hear a rundown of each person’s morning routine from the moment they got up to the meeting now. It would certainly add an element of character and humor perhaps to the meeting, but again it would impede our goal of an effective DS.
Remember that most new teams will have their DS led by the scrum master until a team leader is selected to do this. Members may think that they are updating the scrum master as to their progress and this is why the DS is important; like reporting to your supervisor. However, it’s important for them to understand that in actuality what they are doing in the DS is updating the team as to their individual progress; in turn, they are updated on what their fellow team members have been accomplishing. This can lead to the scrum master leaving the DS early or sometimes not attending as the team becomes more autonomous in this ceremony which is inherently geared towards them.
Always Raise the Impediments with the Team
Now for a word on impediments. In the case of a DS and impediments, silence is not golden. Impediments should always be raised, regardless. They should be clearly explained and if the member requires help, it must be concisely stated as to what is needed to clear the impediment. The sooner it is cleared the better for obvious reasons. If pair programming is required to clear an impediment, then the scrum master or tech lead can be asked after the DS to arrange this.
The team is like a family unit in a way, members are there to support one another and work together to achieve the ultimate goals of each sprint and subsequent following one. You must ensure that members understand this and are never shy or timid about openly airing their impediments and/or asking for help in clearing them if needed.
Make the DS More Interesting
To finish off, if I haven’t been honest enough, let me double down and state the importance of making the DS interesting. Interesting how? In some way shape or form, it would behoove you to spice things up a bit; no one truly enjoys attending meetings, especially the daily recurring ones, regardless of how beneficial they may be. I have found through years of experience a few useful techniques that can make things a little less sleep inducing.
Try beginning the DS with a short 3-minute chat rather than jumping into the meeting like race horses out the gate; visit the paddock first and take in the sights and sounds. Quick jokes or simple ice breakers can be very useful tools to set the mood and loosen everyone up. Remember that when dealing with remote teams, the members don’t work in the same space together all day as in a normal office; they see each other perhaps only once a day in the DS so it’s good to do something that creates a nice meeting/working atmosphere from the start.
Another thing you can do to mix things up is rather than going around to each member like a round table discussion, open up the sprint backlog and just run down the list from top to bottom allowing each member to jump in when their item appears. In a sense like a hot potato conversation or tagging members in and out of the ring which can be a fun alternative to the usual.
These are five points that I have found to be beneficial in delivering a more effective DS for development teams. Naturally every scrum master has their own tricks of the trade, and you too can develop your own unique tools to create the most effective DS that you need. As there are no rules on how to have an effective DS, the sky’s the limit!
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