What are common mistakes you see in daily scrums?
Meetings have a habit of going wrong without great facilitation and the daily scrum is no different. I've seen daily scrum meetings become 45 minute to 1 hour affairs where every detail is reported as if the scrum master is a project manager and the team members are all responsible for updating the scrum master on their progress.
There are a few common mistakes that you find with daily scrums, either because the team are relatively new to scrum or because some deeply entrenched beliefs and habits around meetings still plague the team.
Calling it a daily standup
There are some people who believe that standing up throughout the meeting is important. For some people, it is to ensure that people will not get too comfortable in the meeting and will want to share their progress and leave as soon as possible.
For other people, they believe in health benefits such as increased blood flow to the brain and the act of actively standing improves people’s concentration.
To be honest, it doesn’t matter whether you are standing or sitting in the meeting, what does matter is that you focus on 3 simple questions.
- What are you doing?
- What is standing in the way?
- Where do you need help from others?
You should be able to get through your meeting fairly quickly regardless of whether you are standing up or sitting down.
Ideally, you want to spend a maximum of 15 minutes in the daily scrum and if required, set time aside for another meeting should that be required for a select group of individuals to work through a topic or issue in greater depth.
Turning the meeting into a project report and status update
This is super common in companies where traditional waterfall-style of project management used to be, or still is, the preferred style of working.
In these daily scrums, the scrum master is almost like a project manager receiving status updates from the team and checking on everyone’s progress.
These daily scrums tend to be far longer than what the scrum guide recommends. I have seen many of these meetings take anywhere between 45 minutes and 90 minutes.
The daily scrum is ideally meant for the development team to update one another on what the goal for the day is and whether there are any impediments that might prevent someone from achieving their goal.
Ideally, an individual may even ask for an assist from a more experienced member or team at this time, if necessary, to ensure that they stay on track and deliver a great product or feature.
It is useful for the product owner to attend the daily scrums as a way of staying up to date with what is being produced and whether there are any anticipated delays or impediments in the sprint.
So, remember, this isn’t a meeting to update a project manager about the status of work. It is instead a brief huddle so that all the members of the team understand what is working, what needs work, and where they can potentially assist if necessary.
We are looking for a team to come together and assess their plan, briefly discuss what they are focused on for the day ahead, and to raise any issues which may prevent them from achieving their goal.
Not hosting the daily scrum on a regular basis
In some teams I have worked with, they decided to do a ‘daily scrum’ once a month.
The reason for this is because they were finding that the meetings were taking too long and people were becoming immersed in details rather than moving rapidly through the daily scrum.
There is nothing wrong with identifying that you need to have a more in-depth conversation with someone else to resolve an issue or solve a problem. The daily scrum simply isn’t the place to have that conversation. Ideally, you would simply schedule a date and time that works and get on it with it.
So, the frequency of the daily scrum is incredibly important.
It isn’t something you do once a month or even once a week, it is intended to be a daily event.
It is intended to be an opportunity for the team to identify impediments that may need an assist from higher up the chain or elsewhere in the organisation, and raise that impediments as soon as possible so that the issue can be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible.
In a company like SAAB for instance, they are able to align 3500 people within 90 minutes. From the entry level engineer in the workshop through to the CEO of the company.
If there is an issue in the 7:30am daily scrum, it keeps getting escalated in each daily scrum until the person who has the authority and capability to remove that impediment is informed.
All that happens in 90 minutes each day.
Whilst SAAB is an outlier, the concept should inspire you.
Having a daily scrum where your impediment or request for assistance is escalated and addressed as quickly as possible ensures that you don’t waste time waiting for answers or permission.
At times, you may need the team to swarm over the problem and the daily scrum is a great place to ask for that assistance. The team can make a rapid decision as to when everyone is available to swarm and focus their attention on making that a reality sooner rather than later.
Make sure that you keep the daily scrum focused on identifying where people are at, where they are headed, and whether there is anything that is standing in the way of them achieving their goals.
Any other discussions can be scheduled for a different time of the day and be exclusive to the people who need to be in that meeting or have the authority to assist with the problem at hand.
As a scrum master, you can make a valuable contribution by facilitating a daily scrum, especially if the team are battling to keep their daily scrum within the 15-minute proposed time box.
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