Monday, May 24, 2010

Suggestions for a better Daily Scrum

It is our view that the main problem with doing Scrum is that we don't 'feel the music' while we do the dance. That is to say: we don't understand the values and principles underlying the practices we are doing.

In general, this is true of all of us. So, there is no reason to get obnoxious about 'I get Scrum better than you'. Still, in any case, someone has to talk to someone else, to the effect that, 'I don't think you are getting the values and principles well enough'. Sometimes this starts as a question, such as: "Why do we do the Daily Scrum?'

My answer: It enables the Team to land the airplane at the end of the Sprint.

Put another way, it enables the Team to get enough visibility about 'everything' that is going on, to identify the biggest problem(s), deal with them some, and then complete the Sprint successfully. Meaning all promised 'stories' are completed ('done, done' if you use that phrase).

Some smells or issues:
1. 'We are reporting status to the ScrumMaster.' OK, raise your hands anyone who enjoys reporting 'status' to any manager. Ummm. No hands. Shocking. No, dudes, you are not reporting status to any manager. You are enabling yourselves (the whole team) to be successful.

2. 'No one is talking about anything useful.' Then do the five Whys about the root cause of that.

3. 'People want to hide.' Well, it is natural to hide from pain or expected pain. Virtually 120% of the time, the implementers have been beaten up, harassed or at least disrupted if they told the truth. So, naturally, it takes a long time of not getting punished before they believe they won't be punished any more. Figure out how to deal with that. Talking helps.

4. 'Everyone says "No impediments".' Yeah, like that is true. First, explain that we are always removing the top impediment (that is happening for your team, right?). Then, emphasize that people themselves and their normal mistakes are not impediments. Or maybe better to say that we ALWAYS expect people to make a normal number of human mistakes. That is part of being creative. Then, ask them to identify 'anything' that is slowing the team down. (Sometimes they have too limited a view of what an impediment might be.) Then, tell them that each person must identify his biggest impediment. (And we all have one, since nothing is perfect.)

5. People arriving late. Umm. Sometimes a difficult one. First, review why you think the Daily Scrum is valuable, its purpose, stuff like that. Does that person agree? If yes, then why is he late? Ah, he has something more important almost every day? Does he really feel he is a team member? And continue on like this. But sometimes it just takes 'tricks'. The 'put a $1 in a jar' one is well known. (The Team takes the money and buys donuts every so often, for example.) Or, try having the late person sing a song after the stand-up. Very effective for many. Or, have the person eat a pickle (in the morning). I have not done this, but I hear that a pickle tastes bad in the AM.
Now, if a team member sends in one's answers to another team member before the stand-up, then one is not 'late'.

6. They only answer the 3 questions. The 3 questions are only a help. The Team should talk about the most important stuff in 15 minutes (max) to land the plane. Together. Especially if some Sprints have failed (not gotten all stories done) and poor daily info feels like a root cause, then explore this.

7. Have the Daily Scrum around the Scrum Board. Finally, a positive one. I strongly encourage teams, especially beginning teams, to have the Daily Scrum around the Scrum Board, and to move the cards in the meeting. It is magic. (Lots of studies and theory explain what the magic is, but do you need to go there?) Yes, the works a lot better if the team is collocated.

Why do we have a daily Scrum?

Well, it's just like Fred Brooks said in The Mythical Man-Month.
'How does a project get one year late?'
'One day at a time.'

If we take and address the top impediment each day, we are much more effective as a team.


5CentsWorth said...

All great advice, 15mins (max) mm, not really. If they need to talk more thats ok, 15 mins is a guide. On reason I often find in teams that dont communicate in scrum meetings is the scrum master is working as a team leader , or another team member is working as a team leader and telling people what to do, so people shut up and wait. Or even worse that there has been a punitive response to bad news in the past. being late is not good but there maybe a good reason, and why is more important than anything else, so bad news is better than none and any action that stops bad news will crash the plane. Scrum meetings are a critical part of the bonding experience of the team the stronger the bond the stronger the team, the more committed they are, the more committed the more they will walk through fire to get the job done. Often forgotten in the It world we are human, being of two brains left and right, the left is the 3 questions that technically gets things done, the right is the multiplier, energy enthusiasm and engagement. Both are needed for you to get the highest performance and quality.

Joe Little said...

Hi 5Cents,

Excellent advice.

I differ with you slightly in one regard. I think the Daily Scrum "proper" should be reliably under 15 minutes. However, if anyone or the team decide to have an additional meeting right after the Daily Scrum, that would be fine (in my book).

Usually in fact there is need for such a follow-on meeting with some group. But usually not the whole group of pigs. Or so I find.

I think mostly we are saying the same thing, just a different way.

I won't boor you and others saying all the reasons I agree with you on every other point.


5CentsWorth said...

I think we are talking about the same thing, I tell my scrum masters you need to take the time to get the job done, let people get out and share what needed but not let the conversation drift off into one or other technical detail. We have some team who get it done in 5 -10 some almost 15 to 20. Once over 20 I tend to start sitting in, usually there is a problem in the functioning of the team if they are going longer than 20 on a regular basis.

Katie said...

Great post! As efficient as I believe our team is, after reading your post, I smell areas of potential improvement. At least we are part of the lucky half that are Agile enough to continue to analysis and improve our processes. Thanks for the tips! Going to share your post on AgileShout.

Joe Little said...

Hi Katie,

Thanks for your kind words. My view is that even if we had the best Daily Scrum ever, we could still improve it. Although maybe we should improve a bigger impediment first.

Anyway, that post was short. I have lots of other ideas on the Daily Scrum, which I hope to post soon. It seems to be a mis-understood meeting, probably because people have been to too many stupid 'status' meetings.

The key purposes (that everyone seems to forget, at least eventually): 1. To give the whole team the info to land the plane successfully together. 2. To get the bad news out on the table asap, so the bad news does not get better with age. (Ok, some Aikido there, but you get the point.) [Yes, I said these in the blog post, but apparently they bear repeating. For others, not you.]

Regards, Joe

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