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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why Daily Scrum Meetings?

Developers who are new to scrum often question the daily team meeting known as the "daily scrum". The comments generally fall into two categories:
  • It's a waste of time
  • Let's use a desktop tool to replace it
I understand the comments especially from the point of view of teams that are new to scrum. New scrum teams usually have pretty boring daily scrums. They are usually reporting sessions to the scrum master about the task hours and that's it. If that's what they were all about, I'd want to automate them too!

However, I don't want teams to abandon the meeting. This is based on what the daily scrum should be. The daily scrum should be a beehive of activity where the team, who takes a level of ownership and commitment to their goals, huddles up for 15 minutes and addresses what's going on. It should be an absolutely critical meeting to have.

The worst thing that can happen is that the team abandons the daily scrum practice before they reach the state where the meeting is critical to them.

The daily scrum is about three thing:
  • Goals - The team is either going to succeed or fail as a team in achieving the goals they committed to at the start of the Sprint. With games, these goals are highly subjective and subject to change. The team owns these goals and needs to revisit them daily.
  • Commitment - Team members commit to their work in front of their peers. Often this work is based on the needs of a cross-discipline team and what it takes to let everyone work together effectively.
  • Impediments - Cross-discipline teams should be able to fix 90% of the problems on their own. They won't get fixed if they are not make visible.
Here are some things the SM can do to help things along:
  • Avoid the "reporting to the SM" pattern. The daily scrum isn't to report to you. Avoid eye contact (look around at everyone else or the task board). Don't write down what everyone says either. It reinforces the "task reporting" attitude.
  • Stop side discussions, talking chickens & missing pigs. The team should agree to be there and focus for 15 minutes. You need to make sure that the meeting is as focused and effective as possible.
  • Announce the start and end of the meeting. Don't let the meeting ramp up and down slowly.
  • Dig for the impediments. If someone makes no progress on a task, there has to be an impediment. Don't let them go unreported.
  • Add some relevant questions. For example, one SM I know asks their team "what is risking our sprint goals today?". This elicits questions that the team doesn't think about normally.
Don't be afraid to experiment

Discover what works best with your team. Reorganize your task board. Go down the list of stories rather than go around the room. Make sure you discuss this with members of the team in your retrospective before you implement these changes.

Teams new to scrum think that the daily scrum is about reporting hours. It's not. The daily scrum is a discussion on the commitments, impediments and goals of the Sprint. This requires a sense of ownership to get right, but that takes time.

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