Effective and efficient Daily Scrums

Lets talk about one of the most important meetings in the Scrum framework: the Daily Scrum. It is, as the name says, hold on every day of the Sprint (ok, just on the working days :D). In the daily the team comes together to find out how the Sprint is going, what could be a risk to not reach the Sprint Goal and how to prevent not finishing the most important stuff. With important stuff here is ment the things which give the most business value.

The famous three questions

The most frequent thing you hear or read about the Daily Scrum (e.g. the Scrum Guide) are the following three questions every team member should answer:

  • What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

Lets have a short look who you need in a Daily Scrum. At least you need the team members (not the whole Scrum Team). Often it is good to have the Scrum Master and the Product Owner there too. The Scrum Master can give hints how to handle certain issues or point out risks which the team is not seeing. Also she can help the team focus more on improtant and necessary stuff. So for instance he can point out, that the team is premature optimizing a not yet proven solution or not focusing on customer needs any longer. The Product Owner can be a listening and answering part of the Daily Scrum.

Three questions – the dark side

The risk with the “three questions Daily Scrum” is, that the team is just doing a report. If your company has the structure, that the Product Owner is also the boss of the team, chances are high, that the team is not selforganizing and swarming around the problems, but just looking direct into the eyes of the Product Owner/boss and reporting to him. They will tell him what they have done and what will be done next. But even if there is no such structural antipattern the risk of unseen risks is given in this approach of the Daily Scrum. This risk comes with the three questions, which are easily mistransformed to the following questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • Do I see any impediment?

Maybe you see what happened? We completely lost the focus on the important part, the Sprint Goal. The questions are sounding very similar. If you don’t look, or better listen, carefully, it seems alright, that the team answers the shorter questions. But: without the focus it is very probable, that the team forgets fast which reason they have: the “Why?”, the “What for?”. The team lost the focus on the customer needs. Now the team can fill the fifteen minutes of Daily Scrum with unimportant chat. They can seem very busy and look like hard working, but can achieve no business value at all.

Other reasons for hidden risks can be fear or shame. If somebody isn’t feeling safe, she can come into the state of fear, that is the obvious way and shouldn’t need further discussion. The other way it is possible to become fearfull, if you have a hidden or personal goal. For instance you want a raise or a promotion. Than some colleagues tend to bury their mistakes deep under a mile of talking about nuts and bolts all the time. If somebody is ashamed, because she can’t solve a problem, the same can happen. Important here is transparency and security. Work into the why and fix it as deeply as possible!

Why Daily Scrums?

Short break and remember whatfor we do have Daily Scrums: we want to assure, that we reach the Srpint Goals. Therefore we plan on a very small scale what to do next. And we want to identify handle risks as early as possible. With this early access to the risks, we can plan the Sprint as safe as possible. Back to the How!

How to organize an efficient and effective Daily Scrum

The approach i am writing about is based on Eric Brechners presentation. He is talking about Kanban, but that’s no problem. I tried it with some teams and had great results. The teams were focused on the most important things nearly all the time. It is really simple: everybody answers just the questionAre there any risks or problems for reaching our goals?

  • Are there any risks or problems for reaching our goals?

The focus is just on the things which can go wrong or are already going wrong. First we decide, if it is an important issue. If it is not solvable on the spot, we don’t talk through the solution at all. We focus on the second question:

  • Who will solve this issue with whom?

You can decide to go person by person, story by story or just throwing the question into the room. Just figure out, what works best for the team. In my teams we only asked into the room and gave everyone a look. Normally every issue came out on their own, only sometimes a question about a topic was needed to see the risk.

Later we realized that focusing only on problems, issues and risks is a bit demotivating and we added “Are there joys or are you proud on something?”. That made the Daily Scrum much more fun!

Conclusion

Have you tried this method for Daily Scrums? Or the three questions mentioned in the beginning? Or a completely different method? Let us know and write a comment!

As always i hoped you liked it, thanks for reading and sharing!

Divide and rule in Scrum – the events

Sometimes it is fun to have a look on old knowledge from a different point of view! In this case the old knowledge is Scrum-you’re familiar with it, right? The viewpoint i chose today is the good old divide et impera or defeat in detail! As already announced in the first blog post about the roles in Scrum, here is the next part of the mini-series: the Scrum events in the light of divide et impera. Enough chitchat, let’s dive in!

The events

The official Scrum Guide talks about five Scrum events: the Sprint, the Sprint Planning, the Daily Scrum, the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective. We will talk about them one after another!

The Sprint

I see you asking “How is the Sprint splitting anything?”. I asked myself too and here it is: by taking always small chunks of functionality, or even better business value, putting them into one Sprint and completing them one by one. Seems too simple, right? And it truly is very basic. When the Product Owner does a good job, the developed items are ordered by the maximum value. Here the divide et impera gives us the power to develop every section of the application only up to the point when another one has bigger value. This is one part of the huge power of Scrum – the biggest customer value wins! So we are dividing the “what” into doable parts while staying able to react very fast and not waste time on finishing unused features!

The Sprint Planning

The first meeting and the starting point of every Sprint is the Sprint Planning. It is there to shape the Sprint Goal and how to achieve it. The Scrum Team makes the very first step on the “how” level. Often this is done in two steps: looking for possible ways to achieve and than deciding which way to choose and clear the way further.

Another way this meeting divides and rules is by splitting and sorting: if a Product Backlog Item is too big for one Sprint, it is divided into several smaller ones until something fits in. If a Product Backlog Item is to expensive at all, it gets out of the Product Backlog. Hopefully!

The Daily Scrum

In this very effective meeting the Development Team goes through “how” questions of the most important Sprint Backlog Item. The team focuses on how to reach the given Sprint Goal as best and fast as possible. This can mean to decide who does what till the next day. Who will check which possible prototype idea or who will implement what part (maybe in pair programming with who). We have a further division of the how in a more detailed granularity.

The Sprint Review

In the Sprint Review the whole Scrum team looks at “what have we done?”. It is the counterpart for the Sprint Planning-here we look backwards on what was finished. If the Product Backlog Item was only a part of something, here is the first chance to decide, if we adjust this part, go further on the way or spend time and energy in another feature set.

The Sprint Retrospective

The place to look at the “how we are working” is the Sprint Retrospective. Here is the division: in the Sprint Review we looked at the “what was done”. By this segregation of concerns it is assured, that we have a focus on reaching the goals and improving always over time. So we work to reach our business goals and assure to be or become more agile/flexible/professional/whatever our market needs. This Janus-faced character is a wondrous feature of Scrum.

Conclusion

So we’ve seen, that the Scrum meetings are full of dividing and ruling on different stages and at different times. On an abstract point of view there is no need for breaking things more down than it is done in Scrum. If its done right ;)!

What are your thoughts on the Scrum events in general and in this point of view? Do you have something else you want to read about? Would you like to look from another perspective or do you want to see an other part of Scrum analyzed? Did you liked this blog post? Let the world know it and leave a comment!

Thanks for reading and sharing 🙂 i hope you liked it!

Daily Scrum Antipatterns

Let’s have a look on a very central thing in Scrum in my eyes: the Daily Scrum. You can find a section in the Scrum Guide and many other places in the web. Living in the heart of every Sprint and every day of the Sprint, the Daily Scrum is the meeting for the Development Team to plan the next day. As you may read in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master and others are allowed, but they are not allowed to disturb the Daily Scrum. The Development Team decides how it wants to do the actual meeting. The Scrum Master only has to assure, that the meeting takes place, that the team is able to hold the 15 minutes timebox and that no outsider is disturbing. One common myth is, that everybody has to answer the holy three questions. That’s simply not true. The three questions are a good start for new teams to find a way to talk every day about the Sprint Goal. And that is the point where i want to start sharing my experiences and little stories.

Actual Antipatterns

The first thing i want to share is the “forced three questions”. Here the team lead forced the team members to answer the three questions. Without a doubt, the team had no right to improve or change the situation and was not empowered to organize its work as it wanted.

Another one i saw multiple times is the “i’ve done this and that”. The team members didn’t focused on the Sprint Goal. If you have a close look at the Scrum Guide, the three questions, there is always a “meet the Sprint Goal” at the end of them. So team members chatted about phone calls and refactoring a class and fixing this bug. But the Sprint Goal was not focused. And that’s a problem! The team should focus on the Sprint Goal and find a plan to reach it in the Daily Scrum. It is a inspect and adapt meeting, if the first plan got impediments in the way, the team has to adapt and change the plan.

Very close to that is the “hiding what you’re doing beside the Sprint Goal”. There one or multiple team members did things, which had nothing to do with the Sprint Goal and did not tell anybody. This is a violation of the Scrum Values focus, openness and maybe also respect. When someone of the team is not working together with the rest to reach the goals, it is unfocused and maybe also harming the morale of the remaining team and company.

Another thing what can be hidden are the mistakes. So the anti-pattern of the “hiding my mistakes” is harmful cause nobody will learn from them and they will be done again and again. This is a waste and should not be permitted. Whatever brings a team member to hide a mistake should be taken really seriously. If there is a broken culture, than the Scrum Master must have a look at it. It should be fixed as soon as possible to not end up in a situation where nobody is showing his errors and nobody can learn from them. Without being courageous we can’t adapt to the reality!

Talking about the culture i have to admit one pattern i saw multiple times is the “report meeting”. Here everybody is giving his or her report to the boss or the felt next higher tangible person. So if the boss is somehow once not there, than the Scrum Master is the recipient of the habitual report. There are two misconceptions. First is, that you have to tell what you’ve done and present your personal plan to someone. Second is, that the Scrum Master is higher than the team member. The latter shows a misunderstood Scrum interpretation. The Scrum Team is completely equal. The power is partitioned to have someone responsible for every important part in the development of complex products: the team is responsible for the how, the Product Owner for the what and the Scrum Master for the process. They are equal and together they build something great.

Quite similiar is the “chatty boss”. The boss is talking nearly all the time and even exceeding the timebox. He is giving everyone a task and looking for presenting himself. As you read through all the other patterns, there is nothing to add why this is a sign of not working Scrum.

The “forced metric” i saw and heard multiple times. For instance the team lead forced to fill the happiness metric. Without a doubt, if the team wants to fill a metric, that is clearly allowed. And on top it is a good sign for having some healthy habits. It shows, that the team may focus on side goals or true norths like better bug rates or better code quality. Being forced to fill a metric is a sign for a not so good understanding of theself-organising thingy.

Another hard thing i remember in one team was “the silence” or “the elephant in the room”. There were nearly no discussions or a hard atmosphere. Everybody was happy when the meeting was over. At least it felt like a big burden was gone after the Daily Scrum finally was done. That could’ve had several reasons. A new boss nobody liked or a cold conflict n the team were nobody wanted to get in struggle or some other hidden things. Here it is important to find the root cause and to fix it. Sometimes the Scrum Master can do this, sometimes he has to delegate it to HR.

Conclusion

Many misunderstandings of Scrum and the concepts in it can lead to Daily Scrums, which are not so valuable as they could be. Sometimes the Daily Scrum is a good indicator, that something deeper is broken. That could be the culture or the relationships. Than it is important to make this things transparent and to adapt to the reality.

What anti-patterns did you saw in your Daily Scrums? And how did you handled them? Which things helped and went something to the complete wrong direction? Just leave a comment and let me and the world know about your experiences!

Thanks for reading and have a good Daily Scrum :)!