Ask better questions in your daily meeting

You might be wasting your time in ineffective daily meetings because you are asking the wrong questions. Could other questions give us a richer understanding of the current Sprint?

The boring Daily Scrum

I think the Daily Stand-up is one of the most misunderstood agile practices. As a coach, I get to see many teams trying to get started with Scrum or another agile flavor. By extension, I get to see a lot of daily meetings. And let me tell you, through a few even I can barely stay awake.

But I don’t think anyone can blame me. The next time you have a hard time falling asleep, try paying attention to seven people sitting in a circle and speaking with a half-empty voice: “Um, so… Yesterday I started task #34122, today I am continuing it, and um… I don’t have any type of problems. Next?” 

When this happens, I pay attention to two things: what seems to be the purpose of the meeting and how do the tasks look like. More often than not, the purpose seems to be justifying the time spent at the desk during the last 8 hours. As for the tasks, they are usually long (2 days or more) and have single owners (no collaboration).

So I get it. If all the members in your team work on separate tasks that last 2-5 days, there’s not much reason to sync, is there? But since Scrum demands we have a daily meeting, we just do it. This is why the Daily Scrum gets boring. There’s a good reason why most Agile coaches recommend limiting your tasks to 8 hours.

What can be done?

Somewhere along the way, it seems we misunderstood the real reason why we should meet daily. That reason should be to analyze our progress through the current sprint and as a team make adjustmentsas needed. The confusion is owed in part to the way this meeting was presented until recently in the Scrum Guide:

The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity. During the meeting, each Development Team member explains:
– What has been accomplished since the last meeting?
– What will be done before the next meeting?
– What obstacles are in the way?

I propose that in order to sync more effectively as a team, we need a bigger set of questions in our tool belt. We need a set of questions that help us realize that the Daily Scrum is not about reporting status to the ScrumMaster, but about joining forces to solve our current problems. Here’s what you might ask yourself during your next Daily Stand-up:

LEARN

  • What do we still need to learn in this sprint?
  • Have I identified any new risks?
  • Have I learned anything I’d like to share?
  • Do I need more clarifications for a feature?

COLLABORATE

  • Am I making everything visible?
  • Can I offer any advice to my colleagues?
  • Should I ask for help with my current task?
  • Can I help a colleague do his task more efficiently?

DELIVER

  • Are we on track with the sprint goal?
  • Can I help a colleague finish a feature?
  • Do we have any new requests to deal with?
  • Are we working on the most important items?

The list aims to be comprehensive. You don’t need to ask all of the questions, but pick 2 or 3 that are suitable in your context. I believe that by changing our perspective we get a richer understanding of our current situation and have better chances of having a successful Sprint.

Where you are being challenged

Here’s your challenge, should you choose to accept it: The next time you find yourself falling asleep during the Daily Scrum, ask your team members to stop and skim the list above. Ask those questions that you believe will provide more insight than What did I do yesterday? What I’m planning to do today? Do I have any blockers?

What about you? How is your Daily Scrum? What questions do you ask?

 

 

 


You can also download a PDF version of the checklist to bring in your Daily Scrum.

If you are worried that your team isn’t as efficient as possible during their Daily Scrum (or during other meetings), we can help with a customized assessment of your process. We can also provide on the job mentoring for your ScrumMasters.

Let us know and we will create a customized package for your needs.

(Image credit: Rebecca Marshall on flickr)

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