Meet-up on Agile Implementation and Learning: Daily Scrum – Discuss Agile

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Meet-up on Agile Implementation and Learning: Daily Scrum

This meet-up was focused on addressing the challenges commonly faced during Daily Scrum meetings. Though it looks like a small topic, once the discussions started, a lot of challenges were uncovered. Discussions led to identifying the underlying reasons of why those challenges occur and what the potential opportunities are to mitigate them.

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Most important takeaways from this discussion are:

  • Address any communication gap in the team
  • Provide visual indicators to all stakeholders
  • Improve trust between team and stakeholders

This was a very useful discussion. Some of the topics discussed in the order of priority are as follows:

1.Discussions during stand-up meetings are not related to three questions
It has been observed that the discussions during daily scrum meetings extend beyond three questions and sometimes gets extended beyond 15 minutes.

This could happen when we see a communication gap in the day to day interaction:

  • People not talking to each other regularly outside the daily scrum meeting and hence team members may try to use this as a primary source for all project communications
  • There are no transparent opportunities to show the impediment list and hence people will be talking more about impediments during daily stand-up
  • It is used as broadcast forum to raise concerns

In order to address this challenge, there is a need to figure out why and where the gaps are which is getting filled by daily stand-up meetings and adopt practices to reduce the gaps.

2. How to handle non-team managers attending/driving meeting
It has been observed that in few projects, there will be non-team members attending the meeting and the meeting will be driven by someone who is not a ScrumMaster. It could be someone like a project manager, program manager, head of department, account manager and so on. The manager could have more questions or needs information and it will take more time explaining him/her than focusing on the purpose of sprint goal.

Some of the reasons for this to occur:

  • During initial sprints when the trust between team and other stakeholders is not yet developed
  • The team is new or the manager is new
  • Manager does not have confidence on the team, very anxious, and does not know if the team is moving in the right direction
  • Manager is not getting relevant information about the project status
  • There are no visual information radiators displaying information about the status, impediments and so on

Some of the ways to address this challenge:

  • Consider manager as a person who has genuine interest in the success of the project and anxious about what is going on. Provide necessary information and develop confidence with him/her through results
  • Develop visual information radiators to provide all the information that a manager is looking for
  • Make the impediments list visible
  • Encourage him/her to attend sprint review meeting
  • Schedule special purpose meetings to address anything that he/she wants to discuss
  • Bring in a neutral person like an agile coach who is accepted by manager and convey to manager about his involvement in daily scrum meetings

3. Should everyone give status during daily scrum meeting
Daily scrum meetings could have team members and other stakeholders. So, everyone may feel that they have to provide status update.

However, the purpose of daily scrum meeting is for the team to plan their activities for the day to achieve sprint goal. So, it is not required for non-team members to provide any updates.

List of impediments should be clearly visible on the board so that the owner of the impediment can provide update without any additional reminders. This could also help in avoiding impediments from repeating.

4. How to ensure equal participation from all scrum team members

When there is a team which is a mixture of senior and junior team members, it is observed that seniors will end up driving the meeting. Junior members will end up giving just ritual updates. They hesitate speaking much about impediments. This problem can occur in other meetings as well.

There could be many reasons for this:

  • Junior/new team members feel overshadowed by all the discussions and domain unfamiliarity
  • They don’t want to look foolish and avoid speaking
  • They are not familiar with other team members

Some of the ways to promote equal participation:

  • Nominate them for few responsibilities
  • Make the new team member update the scrum board. So that he gets to have conversation with others and understand what’s happening in project
  • Give an identity and a feeling of being valued (such a giving positive nick name so that it gets reflected in his work as well). Every team member needs an identity and feels comfortable in expressing themselves. This should be done by a Scrum Master
  • Build confidence. Make them comfortable to open up
  • Build relationship / rapport. Understand why someone is not speaking. Have an informal conversation to know a person.This is a kind of team building activity
  • Make them present during sprint review. Give them visibility at stakeholder level and recognize his/her work.

5. When do team / scrum master update burn down chart
Different teams have different approach for updating the burn down chart. Some of the teams update it before scrum meeting. Some of them update it before end of day.

During initial sprints, ScrumMaster can set reminder to update burn down. But, this should not create a dependency on tools.

If any scrum tools are used, the burn down chart gets updated as soon as a task is updated.

6. Product owner updates about external interface during daily standup
It is observed that in some teams, PO attends the daily scrum meetings and provides updates. Since this is not the main purpose of daily scrum, sometimes, it could result in distraction to the team.

However, this is not a major concern if it helps the team in understanding ‘why’ part of the product backlog and in increasing the chances of achieving the sprint goal. This could even be beneficial if PO involvement helps to refine the sprint backlog without changing sprint goal.

Some of the reasons why PO joins the daily scrum:

  • PO feels disconnected if he is not part of the meeting. So, he/she joins the daily stand-up
  • Length of the sprint may be too long for PO to provide/receive updates
  • There are no dedicated product backlog refinement sessions and hence PO joins daily scrum
  • Proxy PO in the form of Business Analyst could join the meeting to provide updates towards reaching sprint goal

7. When everyone is mature, why to have daily stand-up
Sometimes, when the team is mature, they may feel that it is not required to have daily scrum meetings.
If the team is mature, they could still have daily stand-up and finish the meeting quickly rather than skipping it completely. If the daily scrum meetings have been working well in setting up rhythm for the team, it is recommended to continue it rather than changing the way of working.

However, the teams can follow SHU HA RI approach. i.e. they should follow all the rules in the beginning. After mastering the basic rules, they can change the rules.

8. What if team member completes all tasks before EOD and waits for next stand-up meeting instead of taking up next task
This happens if people are process driven. If they don’t have ownership, they can just play a game. Scrum processes are byproducts of building something useful. For e.g. updating burn down chart is not the goal but a byproduct.

This happens if ScrumMaster acts as micromanager. Team members may want to have something to speak during daily stand-up and hence they may not update the task board as soon as a task is complete.

This can be avoided only when ScrumMaster provides right kind of leadership and creates a right kind of environment.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for your blog

  2. I had missed this meetup, thanks Prashanth for writing this blog which gives clear information on the points discussed.

  3. I’m afraid I’ve to disagree with some of the remedies suggested for some of the daily scrum issues.

    Scrum master’s job is to make sure that the development team is not distracted and is isolated from participating in unnecessary ceremonies that doesn’t deliver any value to the customer.

    For example, as a Scrum Master I would strongly recommend PO to speak after the stand up is over. Not all team members may be interested in listening to what PO has to say thus wasting team time. The whole reason why PO is looking for opportunities to speak in the stand up is because they are no regularly collaborating enough with the team. Of the communication channels are always open between the PO and the Dev team, then there shouldn’t be any need to speak up in the stand up. Stand ups are meant for Dev teams to check where they are with respect to the sprint goal, what is there plan for the day and bring up if there are any impediments. As a solution to this particular issue, I think the Scrum Master needs to talk to the PO and have them sit with the team.

    Secondly, in a scenario where stakeholders need additional detail, this is where either these stakeholders don’t know how to get that information from the information radiators the team is using or they don’t trust the team and need specific details. Scrum master in this case should work with these stakeholders to figure out what additional information they are trying to seek here. If that information can be provided through the Kanban board with minimal effort (such that it does not distract the team or their focus) then the story/Kanban board should be updated. I’ve seen cases where once these unrealistic expectations are set with these disconnected stakeholders, then it becomes are ritual for every future project this team will work on. Scrum master should educate the stakeholders why the dev team need not be disturbed and how it affects their focus. All these meetings again are identified as WASTE in this whole delivery process and as also mentioned in this blog should be replaced by inviting all interested stakeholders to right meetings (release planning, sprint planing and sprint review).

    Last but not the least, in order to make sure that each team member speaks up in the daily scrum meeting and at the same time provides same details as any other team member is providing, we can explore other ways to conduct this meeting. There are other ways where team members can conduct this meeting and at the same time provide same information (answering 3 questions).

  4. @Manoj Sanhotra. Appreciate your comments and feedback.

    It is not clear which point in the article you were referring to. However, the main message presented in the write up is to address the communication gaps in the team. It could be that team is not discussing adequately among themselves or with PO and it gets manifested in PO or other stakeholders joining daily scrum. So, if ScrumMaster encourages the team to communicate/collaborate with each other and with PO as soon as there is a need, it would fill the communication gap and thereby make daily scrum more effective.

    It many instances, it is not possible for the PO to be co-located with the team and be available always. In such cases, the ScrumMaster could utilize other opportunities such as Product Backlog grooming session, Sprint Review to connect with team. This is in addition to providing clear information through visual indicators and educating PO to get the information that he/she is looking for from these indicators.

  5. Hi Prashanth,

    Thanks for this nice article. We figured out that standup meetings are great but needed improvement (they took a lot of time, de-focussed our colleagues and
    interrupted their workflows). Because of this we developed a SaaS tool to “automate” the daily standup meetings – with just a single email. If you like to take a look: http://www.30secondsmail.com.
    Best,
    Ajie

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