Revisiting the Daily Scrum Meeting

Daily Scrum is the basis for most companies’ agile implementations. In fact, so many companies use this as the only measure of whether they’re agile or not that its relevance has been diluted. And because it’s the most common ceremony, most teams get a little weary of doing it. So what can a Scrum Master do to re-emphasize the intent of the meeting and keep it fresh?

Challenges in Daily Scrum

Teams that use the daily Scrum tend, over time, to turn it more into a status meeting. How many times are you hearing your teams say:

  • “I’m working on this item and should finish tomorrow”
  • “I started on that yesterday and am 50% done”
  • “I’ll finish that before the sprint ends”

All of these (and similar) comments are indicative of a Scrum that’s moved into “status report” territory, which is not the intent of daily Scrum. It’s a common evolution for teams, but Scrum Masters need to be wary of this and ever-aware of when it happens. When it does, Scrum Masters need to act to reinforce the original intent of the daily Scrum and, in essence, reintroduce the concept to the team.

Daily Scrum – A New (Old) Perspective

The Planning Onion
The Planning Onion

The original intent of the Scrum meeting is to plan the work for the day. We’re taught to answer three questions:

  • What did I do (complete/deliver) yesterday?
  • What will I work on (complete/deliver) today?
  • Is there anything blocking me from doing that?

These can sound similar to a status report, especially for people who have been working in traditional models. But you’ll notice the parentheticals there – “complete/deliver”. Our goal is to plan our work for the day. What did we complete and deliver yesterday? What are we going to complete and deliver today? That’s the goal. When we look at the planning onion (to the right), you’ll see that there are different planning levels, but that daily Scrum is the innermost level – and is part of the planning onion.

By keeping the Scrum a planning meeting we’re able to focus on what value we’re delivering on a daily basis. We can always review burn-down/burn-up charts and play the “arts-and-crafts” project of moving items around on the board, but delivering value is our goal for the sprint. And that goal depends on what we deliver daily.

But Daily Scrum Is Boring…

One of the challenges that I’ve seen teams experience is that Scrum has gotten into a rut. It turns into a status report because people aren’t engaged. They’re checking their phones. They’re looking around. Would you hold a Sprint Planning if your team was busy distracting themselves? NO! So don’t let it happen during Daily Scrum. But how?

Koosh Ball
Koosh Ball

There are a lot of ideas to keep the Scrum meeting interesting. Here are a few quick suggestions for you:

  • Each team member selects the next person to talk by throwing a koosh ball or some other “conch” to that person
  • Team members have to start their portion by using the next letter of the alphabet. The first person starts with an “A” word, the next person with a “B” word, the next with a “C” word, etc.
  • A variant on the one above is that you have to start using the last word the previous person said.

Closing Thoughts

The big thing about daily Scrum is that the team needs to hear what’s happening. They’re self-organizing (or should be) and have a goal in mind – deliver the sprint commitment. They should be listening to what everyone else is saying. They should be understanding what that person is communicating. And they should be figuring out how that is going to impact the sprint deliverables. And how they can help ensure that the team meets its commitment. In the end, that’s what the daily Scrum does – keep the “train on the tracks” to deliver our sprint commitment successfully.

Feliz entrenamiento, mis amigos! And May the Fourth be with you!



Bill DeVoe