What is the Point of the Daily Scrum?

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In Marvel’s popular movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill is trying to come up with a plan to stop the villain and save the day and confesses that he only has 12% of a plan put together. As he engages support from his teammates, they each stand as they commit to the goal. As the final member, Rocket, stands he says “Well now I’m standing. Happy? We’re all standing now. Bunch of jackasses, standing in a circle.”

Does that remind you of your Daily Scrum? That scene struck a chord with me. I hear so many students and clients complain about the Daily Scrum. Yet the things they claim not to like, only reveal that they don’t understand the point of the Daily Scrum. They believe the myths and create anti-patterns that degenerate Daily Scrum into a waste of time.  Let’s look at the facts:

1.     What’s the Point of the Daily Scrum? The Daily Scrum is intended for the Development Team to provide Transparency about the Sprint Goal on a Daily basis so that they can Inspect and Adapt. Why let 10 days, 15 days, 20 days go by to learn that there’s an error message holding someone up or an impediment in getting an item done? Isn’t it better to have a quick check in and find out potentially every day what’s holding up work or the product increment from being complete? Of course, that means people actually have to be transparent but that’s for the Scrum Master to teach. That doesn’t make this a status report to the Scrum Master or to the Product Owner either. The Development Team conducts the Daily Scrum and is for them to talk to each other to make a plan for the day.

2.     Do we Have to Stand? No. The Development Team conducts the Daily Scrum. They get to decide what time the event occurs and whether there’s an agreement among themselves to stand or not to stand. And no, it doesn’t have to be in a circle either. Some believe standing keeps the event short and sweet but standing is not “required” nor is that listed in the Scrum Guide as any sort of rule.

3.     Why is the Daily Scrum at the same time each day? This helps reduce complexity and cuts down on needless administrivia with calendars. If it’s at the same time and same place every day, there’s no need to constantly update that information. It’s known.

4.     How Long is the Daily Scrum? The Daily Scrum is 15 minutes or less.  The intent is not to hash through an error message raised or an impediment raised in that short amount of time, the point is to give transparency into what is happening. That way a plan can be made for who needs to be involved, and more importantly who is not needed, after Daily Scrum is over. People also forget the “or less” part of the suggested timebox. It’s intended to take 15 minutes to provide transparency on the Sprint Goal and make a plan to address those items. If that takes less than 15 minutes, get on with your day.

5.     Do we have to Answer the 3 Questions: The Scrum Guide offers a suggestion and notes that it’s only a suggestion for questions to address the Sprint Goal. So, no. But hold on! Many people ignore the actual suggested questions and relegate the Daily Scrum to what’d I do yesterday, what will I do today and do I have any blockers. Those are NOT the suggested questions. It’s no wonder the Daily Scrum is useless if those are the questions that your team is using. It probably has them rattling off a laundry list of tasks including what they ate for lunch and bunch of other things that add no value in learning where we’re at on the Sprint Goal. If you’re looking for a way to get people focused on what we want to hear about, which is the Sprint Goal, you could try these suggestions from the official Scrum Guide (https://scrumguides.org/)

·       What did I do yesterday that HELPED the Development Team MEET THE SPRINT GOAL?

·       What will I do today to help the Development Team MEET THE SPRINT GOAL?

·       Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from MEETING THE SPRINT GOAL?

Hopefully this dose of reality about the Daily Scrum will help you get your daily planning back on track, will uncover impediments quickly and will get the team working together to accomplish the Sprint Goal.  If you’ve been wondering what the heck a Sprint Goal is as you read this post, my suggestion is to revisit the free Scrum Guide or maybe that’s an idea for the next topic I’ll tackle.