How to Hold the Daily Scrum

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Scrum is simple and Scrum is hard. The Daily Scrum is simple daily routine to help the team self-organize, focus, and identify and eliminate impediments to progress. How do you conduct the Daily Scrum and how do you know if the Daily Scrum is achieving its purpose?

When and Where to hold the Daily Scrum

Scrum defines basic rules for holding the Daily Scrum. The Daily Scrum should be held at the same location and the same time every day, ideally in the team space in front of the team’s big visible task board. The task board displays the release and sprint burn down charts and the state of each task in the sprint backlog. Each task is represented on a card and moves through the columns from “waiting” to “in work” to “done”.

Before the meeting starts, each team member should update the state of his tasks and the sprint burn down chart on the task board. These make the current state of the sprint visible for all to see.

The Daily Scrum should be held first thing in the morning, so that team members use it to focus their planning for the day. Practical considerations, e.g. decentralized teams working in different time zones, may require a different time or even changing the time from Sprint to Sprint.

Discipline at the Daily Scrum

The meeting lasts a maximum of 15 minutes. All team members are required to attend personally, by phone or by proxy. Since the meeting is so short, it is essential that people arrive on time and be ready to start at the appointed time. The classic penalty for late arrivals is a $1 fine, paid to the ScrumMaster, but other fines are possible. The fine should not directly or indirectly reward bad behavior.

The Daily Scrum is generally a ‘stand-up’ meeting – no sitting, so people are discouraged from settling in and rambling. It’s also good for your circulation, so people think more clearly.

Each team member answers in turn the three questions. Only one person may talk at once. The ScrumMaster must intervene if people get off track. Any team member may request a meeting with interested parties to discuss issues that arise during the meeting.

How does the Daily Scrum not work?

A Daily Scrum has several important differences from a classical project meeting:

  1. Neither the ScrumMaster nor anybody else assigns tasks.
  2. The team members do not report to the ScrumMaster, they inform and sync up with each other.
  3. The team does not discuss or resolve issues. Team members agree to talk later about subjects of common interest.
  4. Anyone outside of the Scrum Team has to stand out of the way and is not allowed to talk, make faces or otherwise interfere with the meeting.

Solving problems and going beyond the rules

The most fundamental principle of Scrum is ‘Inspect and Adapt.’ If something is working sub-optimally, then ask yourself ‘why?’ and seek ways to improve.

If your Daily Scrums aren’t working, review the rules: are you really doing a Daily Scrum? If not, why not? If you modify the basic rules of Scrum, you risk accommodating dysfunction. The basic rules are surprisingly well thought out and internally consistent. So as a first step, I would ‘do it by the book’ and see if that helps.

How do you know if the Daily Scrum is working well?

In my experience, a good Daily Scrum has several characteristics:

  1. The ScrumMaster does not routinely ask the questions. If s/he does, the meeting degenerates into reporting.
  2. The Team Members talk to each other, not to the ScrumMaster, and even challenge each other on what is being said.
  3. The Daily Scrum stays in its time box. If you are disciplined and doing it right, there is no need for it to exceed 15 Minutes. If you have an ‘After-Scrum’ for other topics, it too should be time-boxed to 15 minutes, and should stay in its time box.)
  4. After the Daily Scrum, you know if you need to talk to your fellow team members. You might not know how they will pass their time, but you know what they are trying to accomplish. If it affects you, you should know it.

Teams that self organize develop a daily rhythm: Quiet before the Daily Scrum. A phase of intense conversation follows the Daily Scrum which then settles into silence until lunch time. Another phase of conversation follows the lunch break and dissolves into silence for the rest of the day. This is pulse of a self-organizing team. If you can feel the pulse, the team is healthy and the Daily Scrum is doing its job.