The daily scrum is probably the best known, and possibly the most misunderstood, scrum event. Here’s why.
If you’ve heard about scrum, you’ve probably heard something like this:
“The daily standup is a 15-minute meeting where the scrum team updates each other on what they did yesterday, what they’re doing today and any blockers.”
This is common knowledge and one of the first things that many people learn about scrum. And yet, almost every single part of it is wrong.
You might find this hard to believe. Or maybe you find yourself in full agreement. Either way, why not try our daily scrum quiz? It’s twenty multiple-choice questions that will probe your understanding of the daily event.
For now though, back to the article. What is wrong with the statement I quoted above?
Let’s start with the phrase ‘daily standup‘. I hear this phrase, more than almost any other to describe the daily scrum. But scrum doesn’t require people to stand at the daily event so how did we end up with the name? I first came across the phrase ‘daily standup’ when reading about Extreme Programming at the turn of the millennium. It’s an idea that quickly gained traction and the value of a short, focused, stand-up meeting was apparent. The name stuck and it’s in widespread use today. But it’s not used in scrum.
The 15 minute meeting
Next under the microscope is the phrase ‘15 minute meeting‘. It’s true that the daily scrum is time-boxed to 15 minutes but that doesn’t mean it must take 15 minutes. Whenever I see the phrase ‘time-box’, I interpret it as meaning ‘up to, but no more than, the stated time limit’. In other words, if you can finish within 5 minutes, that’s great! Don’t force yourselves to collaborate for 15 minutes if there’s no value in doing so.
Where the scrum team update each other
The next part of the statement I’d like to address is ‘where the scrum team update each other‘. For me, there are two false elements here. Firstly, the only mandatory attendees at the daily scrum are the development team. So, the scrum team are not required to be there. Secondly, the purpose of the daily scrum is not to update each other (more on the purpose coming later).
The three questions
For the final scrutiny, I’d like to address the ‘three questions’ element of the statement, viz: ‘what they did yesterday, what they’re doing today and any blockers.‘ I’d be the first to agree that this is a handy mantra to remind us what we might be talking about at a minimum. While it’s handy, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber (co-authors of the scrum guide) came to realise that it was not being used as they intended so the November 2017 version of the scrum guide refers to:
- 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?
The change in wording is intended to remind everyone that we want to focus on the development team meeting the sprint goal during the daily scrum.
Now, let’s be frank, this just seems like nit-picking. But, I’m not a nit-picker so why this article? Well, because I’m a great fan of efficiency. I’m fully signed up to any lean
For example, did you know that at the daily scrum, the development team plans work for the next 24 hours? For me, this is a world apart from the ‘three questions’ I quoted in the opening statement at the beginning of the article. It provides the development team with a clear focus and intent: Plan for the next 24 hours while focusing on the sprint goal.
The three questions (again)
Were you aware that there is no requirement to address the three questions during the daily scrum anyway? The scrum guide says ‘ The structure of the meeting is set by the Development Team and can be conducted in different ways if it focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal.‘
In other words, the development team do what works for them, as long as they meet the intention of the event. Referring again to the scrum guide: ‘Every day, the Development Team should understand how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment by the end of the Sprint.‘
Why do these fallacies persist?
So why does this misinformation about the daily scrum exist? Maybe it’s because of the difference between the mechanics of the daily scrum and the framework of the daily scrum.
Maybe, it’s because we humans crave clarity. Telling us to ‘inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and to inspect how progress is trending toward completing the work in the Sprint Backlog‘ may not be as easily adopted (or remembered) as ‘Use a burndown chart to help you decide if you’ll get all the work done‘.
Whatever the reason(s), we can probably be more efficient if we review the scrum guide’s description of the daily scrum. Then, where valuable, adapt the way the event is run to help us be more efficient.
To know if your review of the scrum guide has been thorough, maybe you’d like to test yourself with our free daily scrum quiz? Maybe, just maybe, it will challenge your current understanding.