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

Monday, 3 July 2017

3 signs your daily Scrum sucks (and how to cure them)

It is actually a long time I have not written an educational article on Scrum. 
I have recently found some notes from a conversation I had with a community of Scrum Masters few months ago and decided to package them into a blog post. Hope you appreciate it.

So here are three small and easy to observe signs that you need to fix your Daily Scrum.

1. People are only interested in their own tasks.
I found that this behavior is also pretty encouraged by the common way of running the Daily Scrum, i.e. the famous three questions. I found many times that people normally follow with attention until it is their turn to speak; they simply disconnect after that.
When I see this, I normally propose the team to try a different way of handling the stand-up.
One way that works is to keep the same 3 questions, but have 3 rounds instead of one, with each person answering only one question at a time. 
This usually gives two benefits. 
The first of course is to keep people actively engaged until the end, since they know they will have to speak again. 
But there’s a more important one. It serves better the real purpose of the Daily Scrum of collectively assessing where the team is compared to the Sprint goal and collaboratively deciding what the next most important task is for each team member to complete, in order to move closer to the Sprint goal.
Another way (which brings even more benefits in my experience) is to run the stand-up not focusing on people’s tasks, but on User Stories. 
The idea is that the team takes one User Story at a time from the top and discuss about how to make it “done done” as soon as possible. Then you take the next and move on, either until you covered all the opened stories or until the 15-minutes time is up. In that way team members do not focus on the individual tasks, but more directly look at the Sprint goal as a collective goal to achieve. Sometimes you do not manage to talk about lower priority stories, so people who are working on those feel a bit excluded J. That provides some social pressure to contribute to complete the highest priority stories first, instead of minding their own tasks.
2. Everybody is looking at the Scrum Master instead of at each other
Sometimes it feels more like a status report. So I use the trick to encourage them to stay in circle, closer to the task board, and I take (or ask the Scrum Master to take) a step back, pretending I’m taking notes. I avoid looking at them in the eyes, so that they feel a bit uncomfortable and they are forced to find other eyes to look into: their team mate’s eyes. It works immediately most times.
I use the same trick also when they tend to look at their manager attending the Daily Scrum: I encourage them to stay in circle, leaving all other attendees outside.
3. People tend to have long discussions, trying to fix problems during the stand-up
I know that many Scrum Masters tend to interrupt discussions or ask people to continue discussion outside the meeting. This works some times, but many times I found that a bit irritating. I try to use and teach a different approach.
I normally try to explain at the beginning very clearly to the team that the Daily Scrum is intended for the Daily Planning, so that everybody understands and buy into this . So, when I see that a discussion is going on, I leave room for a couple of minute. If it is not concluded yet, I ask a question like: How do you think this can affect today’s planning? Most times people admit that it is not strictly relevant and propose to park it.
On top of that, in order to have the team really self-organize, because it is everyone’s responsibility to keep the time of the Daily Scrum, I always use a timer (a digital one or a “pomodoro”) to visualize the time passing and signal when it is up, so that the Scrum Master does not act as the bad time-keeper guy.
Of course the three above and other dysfunctions might be just a symptom of something deeper. 
If the techniques illustrated above do not work, it can be a smell of something more important that must be addressed.

What are the dysfunctions in your Daily Scrum?

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