"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!" - Charles Darwin

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Daily Scrum or not Daily Scrum, that is the question!

A couple of weeks ago, back from Christmas vacation, I had an interesting view exchange with some Scrum Masters about what to do when the team is not motivated to have the Daily Standup. 
What I experienced is that, when the team argue the value of the Daily Scrum, most time it's because they misunderstood it.

Credit: Playmakers! Theatre School
They normally say: Why do we need a meeting to share what we're doing if we're sitting together all the time and know it already?
I would say that, from this perspective, they are totally right!

The point is that the Daily Scrum is not for the sake of sharing, but it has a totally different goal: stand back for 15 minutes and collectively assess where we are compared to our Sprint goal and collaboratively decide what is the next most important task each team member have to complete to move forward towards our goal.

So what I did in those case is to re-discuss with the team what is the real purpose of the Daily standup. That normally worked! I prefer to call the Daily Scrum as Daily Planning to make the real purpose more clear.

If that didn't work, I would name this as a good chance for the Scrum Master to wear his/her teacher hat and re-affirm the fact that the Daily Standup is a fundamental part of Scrum.
Here the Shu-Ha-Ri metaphor works perfectly.

BTW, are you familiar with martial arts?
If yes, you might know the Japanese concept of the 3 levels a martial artist goes through on his way to get mastery in his discipline.
In the first place, the Shu student goes to the master and simply observes and replicates the master's moves, even if he doesn't fully understand the concepts behind.
When he becomes a Ha, he starts to understand the principles behind the moves well enough that he can stop imitating the master rigidly and start trying different moves.
Finally, when he reaches the Ri state, he finally becomes a master himself: he has understood the principles of the discipline so well that he can shape new moves himself to adapt to new situations and can teach others.

So, it's essential for the Scrum Master to openly share with the team his/her feedback/advice that, since they're probably still in the initial (Shu) phase of the learning curve towards Agile, they'd better follow the practices suggested by Scrum and give them a try for a certain amount of period, even though they do not understand them completely. 
When they fully understand the underlying Agile principles, they can dare and break the rules.

A good compromise here is to suggest to keep the Daily Scrum and stand-up anyway at the agreed time: if they are happy about the daily planning for every team member and do not have anything to add, they can sit down after 1 minute. 
You will see they normally take the whole 15 minutes instead 

A final option could be a healthy safe failure approach, which normally works with kids as well as with teams   


  1. What if the team members re-sync already more time per day, they also update the board when needed and deal obstacles as soon as they emerge,
    do they still need the stand-up meeting ?

    I would say no.

    On the other side what if even after the stand-up meeting the team is not in sync, the board is not up to date and the current obstacles are not highlighted ?

    I would investigate if they are working in an environment that give them real trustworthy tangible visible feedback about the outcomes of their work.

    Just thoughts.

    1. Dear Anonymous :)
      Thanks for your thoughts: I understand and kind of share them.
      Just a couple of reflections.
      One of the points I wanted to make is just that the Daily Scrum is not for the sake of synching, but instead to collectively plan the day, considering where we are and our Sprint goal: otherwise we're assuming we should simply follow and track the plan we made during the Sprint Planning, which is not the case.
      Regardless what we planned for the Sprint, we inspect and adapt continously.

      On the other side, if the team is not openly sharing progress, dealing with impediments and updating the board, I agree there must be some bigger problem, which the standup cannot fix, but can definitely reveal.
      Paraphrasing Ken Schwaber, definitely Scrum does not solve any of your problems, it just makes them so painfully visible that not fixing them is harder :)

  2. i would just like to add just another perspective..
    being scrum master for more than 3 years i was also wondering why teams don't make use of this powerful ceremony…the daily scrum, planning …why teams and team members don't use these 15' to answer 3 simple questions!…to find the answers i couldn't imagine a better way than being part of a team! so through participant's observation i've gathered a lot of qualitative data for more than 6 months ...

    surprisingly i've realized that the more trust and openness were growing the more efficient daily scrum we had!

    people need to feel comfortable to answer these 3 simple but powerful planning questions.... a daily scrum is sth similar to a "confession" so trust is prerequisite to open themselves...to express their impediments toward their goal and team's goal

    for me the efficiency of a daily scrum could be seen as a measurement of trust and openness!....and vice versa....

    so why don't we work towards trust and openness (roots of scrum) so to achieve efficient daily scrum and reach our sprint goals?

    1. Hi Nikos, thanks for your comment.
      I cannot agree more with what you say and I do think that help the team practice a good Daily Standup is a very effective tool to teach trust and openness.
      Not the only one of course (if you have not done already, I recommend to read The Five Dysfunction of a Team from Patrick Lencioni), but I believe that one of the main benefit of Scrum is being a wonderful teaching tool to practice and understand the values behind. What's your view on this?

  3. Hello Giuseppe!,
    fully agree that scrum could be a wonderful teaching tool!...scrum roots are fundamental values for any social system...and since the core element of scrum is the "team" teaching and helping teams grow these values could help them become a high performing team! as i read recently...scrum is helping us to see problems that were hidden!...so is giving us the opportunity to work on them and find solutions!..as they saying, scrum (or any other agile practice/framwork) is great when the team is great!...

    the five dysfunctions is a must read (i've read it in the past..but need from time to time to take a look again..). thnx for mentioning...actually scrum roots are more or less close to the five dysfunctions!