– Is your team Agile?
– Oh, yes we are very Agile.
– Can you describe to me your Agile process?
– Yes, we do Daily Standups!
If you are wondering, yes, this is a real conversation! I had it with a friend of mine while drinking coffee, not so long ago.
Nowadays everyone claims to be Agile and working following Scrum but… slightly different, of course.
“We are not following everything by the book.”
If I get a cent each time I hear that sentence, I’d have… well, at least 10 Euro more than I have now. I wonder what is this book everybody is referring to.
Regardless of whether they are being slightly, very, or hyper Agile, most of the teams are doing Daily Standups, or at least, all of them have a meeting called that way. Probably the reason for that is that the Daily Scrum seems to be the simplest Scrum event to implement – everyone knows it must be up to 15 minutes, the whole team gathers at the same place and time every day. Everyone stands up and answers the 3 most important questions in their lives – “What did you do yesterday?”, “What will you do today?” and “Do you have any impediments?”. Sounds very simple indeed and I’ve seen so many teams performing a Daily Scrum exactly as described but still they’re doing it wrong.
The problems with the Daily Scrum can be many, but let me give you some examples from my experience. A common practice is for a Manager or someone in a leadership position to be present and the others report to them by taking turns. For example, this is something I witnessed in a company I’ve worked with in the past. There was a Scrum Master there located in London, while the team was in Bulgaria. Every day the Scrum Master was joining remotely, presenting herself on a big screen in an empty room. One by one people were going in front of the screen and talking to it. This was fun! It felt like a Big Brother experiment where a person goes in the “confession room” to share what was accomplished since the previous day.
What usually bothers the people I’ve talked to is that the Daily is taking not 15 minutes, but sometimes up to an hour! The reason – some of the guys were having long technical discussions while the rest of the team is just sitting there. I wondered why it is so hard to do a proper Daily Scrum.
Finally, I concluded that the point of the meeting is not completely clear. It is not the point to follow the instructions blindly and it is not the point to report status to a line manager or whatever you call your supervisor. I’ll put it as simple as possible:
The purpose of the Daily meeting is for the Development team to do a quick plan for the day to achieve the Sprint Goal. We gather as a team focused on a specific goal, we see how we’ve progressed so far, we identify what is slowing us down and we reorganize our work.
No technical discussions are held here.
If a technical discussion is required, it is identified as a “To Do” item and we plan the time to do it and decide on who is going to participate. Usually, the Scrum Master helps with that. If there are impediments, they are also identified and if the team can handle them, this is planned too. If not, the Scrum Master should take care of those. Having this short planning for the day helps the team to have an up-to-date shared understanding of what is going on, which in turn reduces miscommunication issues.
If you or your team are facing the issues described, my advice is to change the name “Daily Standup” to “Daily Planning”. You’ll be surprised how something small like changing a name of a meeting affects the people and their perception.
Stop just doing the Daily Scrum, instead figure out, as a team, how to accomplish the purpose of that event.