“Daily Scrums improve communications, eliminate other meetings, identify impediments to development for removal, highlight and promote quick decision-making, and improve the Development Team’s level of knowledge. This is a key inspect and adapt meeting.“
If your daily scrum isn’t offering value like this, this post is for you.
It can be a common problem that the daily scrum is a dull and boring meeting with the team giving status updates to the scrum master. Team members are standing around pretending not to be reading their phones while waiting for their turn to speak. One person is blasting out their status update. The status update could be directed at you, but it might as well be directed at the cobwebs in the room. Often, the scrum master simply tells the team to answer the 3 daily scrum questions. Answering these questions doesn’t achieve any of the value quoted above, and daily scrums will quickly revert back to their status update format. The team is only partially aware of their own sprint, sailing straight for an iceberg and not know it until there’s water around everyones feet. It becomes expected that the scrum master will be at all the daily planning meetings to ‘help’ the team, to constantly insist they answer the 3 questions on yesterday, today and impediments, to spot on their behalf that things are behind schedule, to be pushy and point at the burn down, to begin insisting things aren’t working and to resolve any issues himself. Welcome to the unhappy place, a place of high effort, grumpiness, fatigue-inducing wastes of energy and resources which lead to sub-optimal results.
The common mistake here relates to coaching the group as a whole. Try the following which enables the team to learn off each other, to manage themselves better and ace their planning:
After the updates hand everyone a pen and a sticky note.
Give them one minute to each think about a question. A typical one I would ask would be: “What percentage of the sprint are we at?” Make sure they all understand the question. Once they start mulling it over, do NOT allow them to confer with each other. Have each team member write their answer on the sticky note.
When they‘re done writing, get them to form pairs and compare answers. Give them one to two minutes. Then, make two groups of four and ask them to take note of any differences that arise (again, one to two minutes). Have the groups see if they can get on the same page, then report their answer to the larger group, until the entire team agrees on the same number. The ultimate question for the team is: do we still think we can finish the sprint on time? The main question of interest to the scrum master can now be: was anybody surprised at all by any of the answers they heard? They will be, and you can then start closing the gaps.
There are lots of different questions you could use, based on the situation. I sometimes ask the following: “List the current impediments to the sprint and compare with each other in groups of 2s, 4s and the entire group.” Again, at the end, check: were there any surprises?
Using this technique, the daily planning meeting will become more engaging and more effective. The team will learn for themselves what type of daily scrum they need to have, instead of the scrum master dictating how it should be.
Common questions I used as a scrum master:
Which sprint items will not be finished by the end of sprint?
What are the issues and how damaging are they?
What are your ideas to help us be potentially shippable even with the impediments experienced?
What are the tasks in that story?
Next week I will discuss some more of these simple changes that you could use in your sprint planning.
This technique is a Liberating Structure called 1-2-4-all.
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