How to conduct effective daily scrum meetings

Properly conducted daily scrum meetings or scrums is the most important, most recurring ceremony within the scrum framework which has the power to drive things forward. That realization drives me to update this page at regular intervals.

Last updated on 25/May/2020.

The daily scrum meeting is time boxed to 15 minutes regardless of the number of team members. This automatically restricts the team size to be less than 10, so that each person gets at least one and half minutes to update the status of his / her work to the rest of the team. Very long, daily scrum meetings is a waste of time in the eyes of the team members, and demotivates the team members in the longer run. Hence it becomes imperative to manage the daily scrum meetings (also known as daily scrums), according to the scrum meeting guidelines.

  • Fixed venue and time – Hold the daily scrum in the same place at the same time every work day. The daily scrum is best held first thing in the day so that the first thing team members do on arriving at work is think of what they did the day before and what they plan to do today.
  • Full attendance – All team members are required to attend. If for some reason a team member cannot attend in person, the absent member must either attend by phone or by having another team member report on the absent members status.
  • Promptness – Team members must be prompt. Remember, the only thing non-negotiable in scrum is ‘time’. So, be on time, to start the meeting on time. Making others wait for you is not a good indicator of ‘mutual respect’, which is one of the pillars of scrum framework. The the daily scrum starts at the appointed time regardless of who is present. There is no room for habitual late comers in scrum teams.
  • Circular Team formation – Scrum teams are self organizing, hence there is no room for command and control. In order to protect the teams from command and control freaks, the teams must stand in a circular formation, so that there is no boss – subordinate relationship. In a circular formation, there is no room for hierarchy.
  • Auto starter mode – Once the circular team formation is done for the daily scrum meeting, someone in the formation should start the meeting without waiting for any command from the top (scum master / product owner). Once the meeting begins the meeting proceeds in a counter clockwise direction or on a clockwise direction from the starter of the meeting. Be consistent with any one of these patterns, so that unwanted repeated reminders and instructions can be avoided.
  • Focus – During the 1.5 minute individual window for each team member during the meeting, each team member should respond to the following three questions only:
    • What did I do yesterday regarding the project?
    • What am I intending to do between now and the next scrum meeting?
    • What are the challenges I am facing and need support?

Other points

  • Team members should not digress beyond answering these three questions into issues, designs, discussion of problems, or gossip. The scrum master is responsible for moving the reporting along briskly, from person to person.
  • During the daily scrum, only one person talks at a time. That person is the one who is reporting his / her status. Everone else listens. There is no side conversations.
  • When a team member reports something that is of interest to other team members or needs the assistance of other team members, any team meber can immediately arrange for all interested parties to get together after the daily scrum to set up a meeting.
  • Chickens (observers who are not part of development team) are not allowed to talk, make observations, make faces or otherwise make their presence in the daily scrum meeting obtrusive.
  • Chickens stand on the periphery of the team so as not to interfere with the meeting
  • If too many chickens attend the meeting, the scrum master can limit attendance so that the meeting can remain orderly and focused.
  • Chickens are not allowed to talk with team members after the meeting for clarification or to provide advice or instructions.

Those who cannot or will not conform to the above rules can be excluded from the meeting

How to conduct effective daily scrum meetings (stand up meetings) while working remotely?

  • The rule number one is to have a fixed start and end time for the daily scrum meetings, so that participants can plan their days work better.
  • If the bandwidth permits, have your cameras on, so that participants can see each other during the meeting.
  • In a co-located team, it was easy to decide who will speak when. In a virtual meeting the team will have to establish a norm for it.
  • Time management of a virtual meeting is critical. Scrum master and the team members must ensure this.
  • If the team is multicultural, there must be orientation on cultural aspects so that communication is effective.

Symptoms of dysfunctional scrum meetings (daily stand up meetings)

Here are the symptoms of dysfunctional daily scrum meetings one can observe without intervening with the team’s work;

  1. Long stand up meetings which far exceeds the allocated time of 15 minutes
  2. The scrum master / product owner standing on one side, and the rest of the team standing on the other side facing the scrum master / product owner.
  3. Scrum master / Product owner asking questions and giving solutions to the team even when none asked for help.
  4. Combining scrum meeting and the problem solving together
  5. Some of the key team members on mobile or on other urgent work
  6. Switching into sprint review mode
  7. Half the team sitting down and half standing up during the meeting
  8. Team members waiting for the scrum master to start the meeting
  9. Discussions digress into non sprint related topics
  10. Insufficient attention
  11. Frequent meeting cancellations
  12. Frequent rescheduling of meetings

Reference : ‘Agile project management with SCRUM’ by Ken Schwaber