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The Daily Scrum Meeting | David Tzemach

The daily Scrum meeting (A.K.A: daily stand-up) is a fifteen-minute meeting owned by the team, conducted in the exact location and at the same time (ideally in the morning) to reduce complexity and ensure that the team is focused on the sprint goal.

During the meeting, each team member provides a Sprint Backlog Item’s information for the last 24 hours that answers the following questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?

  2. What do you intend to do today?

  3. Are there any impediments that prevent the team from meeting the sprint goal?

The main goal of the meeting is to increase communication, synchronization, and collaboration among the different stakeholders regarding the Sprint goals and progress.

However, it is not a place to start a long discussion about technical issues or problem-solving. After the meeting, these discussions must be “taken offline” and resolved by the relevant stakeholder.

The output of the meeting should be a better understanding of the items the team should focus on in the next 24 hours to achieve the sprint goal.

Objectives of the Daily Scrum Meeting

The daily Scrum meeting is mainly for the team to self-organize towards achieving their sprint goal. It has the following objectives:

  • Assess risks – During the daily Scrum meetings, each team member raises any risks that may jeopardize the sprint-specific commitments.

  • Team synchronization - The team members discuss their progress and align with each other's activities.

  • Sprint goals and commitment – The daily meeting helps ensure everyone is on the right track to achieve their obligations and sprint goal.

  • Ownership - Every team member must attend and participate. This increases the sense of collective ownership and shared responsibility.

  • Adjustments - Based on the discussion, the team can adjust the plan for achieving the Sprint commitments.

Who Should Participate in This Meeting?

There are many opinions about who should attend these meetings. Views like “The team and only the team” or “the team with the Product Owner.” These opinions usually come from a narrow perspective or lack practical experience in real Scrum projects.

Yes, the team owns the daily Scrum meetings. Still, after conducting thousands of daily sessions, I can categorically say that it is more effective for all the relevant stakeholders to attend it.

Another question I am frequently asked is, “Who has permission to speak during the meeting?” The most common answers include “Only the development team” or “development team and the Scrum Master.”

In my experience, it is more effective than as each member shares their insights, both the SM and PO can ask questions. This allows the team to have better access to the big picture.

External attendees cannot speak or interfere during the meeting besides these participants (Development Team, PO, and SM). If they have inputs/questions, they should write them down and get the answers from the relevant stakeholder once the session is over.

Sometimes these meetings involve the participation of senior executives that are willing to come and share their time with their team. It is always good to use their time and speak if their information can assist the team.

Responsibilities of the Different Scrum Members

As mentioned, the daily Scrum meeting should involve all key stakeholders of the Scrum framework. This includes the SM, the PO and the Scrum development team. Each stakeholder contributes to the discussion in different ways:

Development team

  • Identification of impediments.

  • Synchronization of the team members’ work.

  • Updating the sprint backlog (stories, tasks and remaining time).

  • Identification of risks and tasks the team strives to deliver in the next 24 hours.

Scrum Master

  • Recording the impediments reported by the team and implementing a mitigation plan.

  • Ensuring each team member shares their insights.

  • Ensuring the meeting is not be interrupted by external observers.

  • Identifying problems in task handling or bottlenecks in the team flow.

Product Owner

  • Approving changes due to unplanned risks or unplanned requirements.

  • Answering questions raised by team members.

  • Adjusting the sprint scope when necessary.

  • Evaluating the team’s progress and their ability to achieve their commitments.

Benefits of the Daily Scrum

Based on what you have read so far, you can see how powerful and meaningful this meeting is for both the team and the process; I have listed some of the benefits of having a daily Scrum meeting below:

  • Builds trust between team members.

  • Keeps the team focused on sprint commitments.

  • Allows the team to adjust their plans.

  • Impediments and all open issues are made clear.

  • Enhances visibility and transparency.

  • Encourages personal planning.

  • Increases the team’s sense of ownership.

  • Increases the sense of being part of a real team.

  • Increases communication within the team.

  • A solid ground for team members to share their problems.

  • Supports the self-organization of the team.

How to Run an Effective Daily Scrum Meeting

There are different ways to run the daily Scrum meeting, as long as you keep the meeting’s core principles. If you fail to follow these principles, the meeting can quickly go in the wrong direction.

These are the core principles you must follow to keep the meeting on the right track:

Make sure you conduct the meetings daily.

I know it may seem obvious, but the first principle to follow when conducting a daily meeting is to run it daily throughout the Sprint, ideally at the beginning of the working day.

Stand up meetings

One of the founding principles of the daily Scrum is that all attendees should stand up during the meeting. I know it may sound a little peculiar or even a gimmick, but it does reduce time-wasting and helps focus on what is essential. Standing up encourages everyone to keep the meeting short by sharing only the information that serves the purpose of this meeting.

Please talk about the problems without solving them.

As part of the daily Scrum meeting, team members share their progress and report on impediments. This is their chance to share the issue and request help from other teammates.

The issue should be mentioned, but it is essential is not to address the problem right away. The daily Scrum meeting should not become technical or the team's place to suggest technical solutions.

The daily Scrum meeting is for those who are doing the work.

The daily Scrum meeting is for those committed and doing the actual work throughout the project. Therefore, the daily Scrum meeting should focus on the team and provide a space and dedicated time for teammates to talk. They should be the center of this meeting without having external stakeholders (managers, project managers, etc.) that attend the meeting and interrupt (they are more than welcome, as long as they do not interrupt).

Keep it fresh

There is no doubt about the importance of the daily Scrum meeting to the team, but it can still get boring. For this reason, you need to keep it fresh by using creative ideas such as changing its location, telling a bad joke or using different techniques and practices that can make it more fun for the team.

Make sure that the team members come prepared.

The daily Scrum meeting is time-boxed to 15 minutes; this is a narrow timeframe that should be used wisely and not wasted on team members arriving at the meeting unprepared. The Scrum Master’s responsibility (at least at the beginning of the transition) is to ensure that team members come prepared for the meeting.

Start at the scheduled hour.

The daily Scrum meeting should start at the exact time it was scheduled. If team members don’t arrive on time, do not wait for them to show up. If you decide to wait for them, know that you waste time and the meeting will become less effective. Once the session is completed, the Scrum Master’s responsibility is to investigate the reasons for the team member’s delays and make sure that the same delay will not occur in future meetings.

Moreover, although it may look like a simple thing to ensure the team members arrive on time, many teams are still struggling with some of their members who come late to the meeting due to personal discipline issues.

Suggestions for addressing this issue:

  • Ensure the meeting occurs as early as possible, but pick the most comfortable time for the team members. Getting the team’s agreement is the first step to guarantee that they arrive on time (and one less excuse for the team).

  • Ensure there is enough time for the team members between the meeting before the daily meeting and itself. Make sure to give the team at least fifteen minutes to arrive on time.

  • Do not wait for team members that come late; the rest of the team should not suffer for this behavior.

  • If a team member is late, do not allow them to participate (feedback is not taken or given).

Do not focus on the Scrum Master.

As you know, the Scrum Master is the facilitator of this meeting, and it is his responsibility to make sure that the meeting occurs daily. However, this does not mean that it should become a “reporting” meeting where team members share information with the Scrum Master instead of sharing it with the whole team.

The Scrum Master should keep the team focused on working with each other by using different techniques such as taking a step back from the team circle or not coming to the meeting, which will force the team to collaborate and share their insights.

Make sure you keep to the time frame.

As I mentioned earlier, the daily meeting should be time-boxed to 15 minutes at most; daily meetings that exceed this period are not effective because team members get annoyed distracted and stop listening to the critical information shared by the other members. To keep the meeting on track, each team member should answer the three basic questions within 1-3 minutes; this helps increase focus on what adds real value.

Work with a project management tool.

The meeting will be more effective if team members can see the sprint progress (burn-down charts) and the remaining stories (Sprint backlog) during the session; this allows the team to see the picture of their progress instead of guessing or using assumptions.