Get Up, Stand Up: Why the Daily Scrum Works

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Get Up, Stand Up: Why the Daily Scrum Works

Get Up, Stand Up: Why the Daily Scrum Works by Johan den Haan

The Daily Scrum

The Daily Scrum is probably one of the most well known Scrum “ceremonies”, often it is the first agile practice that is adopted by teams and sometimes even the only one.

Unfortunately the Daily Scrum is also an event of which teams can easily forget what the reason is to take the time each day to go through it. Quite often it becomes a practice which is conducted out of habit, without the actual intention of it in mind.

However, when done right, the Daily Scrum is one of the most powerful practices in the Scrum methodology. In this post we will look at the goal of the Daily Scrum, what it is, what it is not and some tips that can help teams improve their Daily Scrum meeting.

What is the Daily Scrum and why do we do it?

So why do development teams do a Daily Scrum? The official Scrum guide states the following about the Daily Scrum:

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team to synchronize activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours.

This is done by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting the work that could be done before the next one.

In my opinion this description is spot on concerning the goal of the Daily Scrum. The Daily Scrum is not about individual status updates of what each team member has done and is going to do, it is about achieving optimal collaboration among team members to achieve the goal of the Sprint.

When a team plans a Sprint, that team commits to a common goal that they want to have achieved at the end of that Sprint. The Daily Scrum is the most important feedback loop during the sprint to keep track of that goal, evaluate the teams collaboration and define and synchronize actions in order to achieve the Sprint goal.

And if the Sprint goal proves to be unachievable for whatever reason, the Daily Scrum is the place where you will find out and can discuss to adjust it.

How to do a Daily Scrum?

Of course there are many ways to do a Daily Scrum and there is definitely not just one formula that will bring succes to all teams. What is most important is to choose a format that facilitates the goal of the Daily Scrum.

Many blogs, websites and literature about Scrum state that during the Daily Scrum the following questions are answered by each team member:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you going to do today?
  • Do you have any impediments.

Unfortunately this format, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why the Daily Scrum often becomes just a habit instead of a tool that really adds value to a team’s collaboration.

Simply talking about what each individual did and is going to do is of course interesting but adds little value if it is not directly related to the goal of the Sprint.

To change the focus from the individual progress to the team progress and relate it to the Sprint goal is a matter of subtle changes but one does need to be mindful about this. When restating the famous three questions as below you can emphasise the focus on what is actually important, which is reaching the Sprint goal:

  • What did I achieve yesterday that helped the development team to meet the Sprint goal?
  • What do I plan to achieve today that will help the development team to meet the Sprint goal?
  • Do I see any impediments that prevents me or the development team from meeting the Sprint goal?

Even though the changes might seem mostly semantics, there is a clear difference in the focus of the questions where the second list of questions focusses on the team and the Sprint goal and therefore has my personal preference.

For whom do we do the Daily Scrum?

There is one very simple answer to this question, the Daily Scrum is for the team members to coordinate and evaluate their work and the progress towards te Sprint goal.

But what about the product owner, the Scrum master or the stakeholders? The Daily Scrum meeting is intended to be used by the team for their own benefit. The Daily Scrum should not be used as an event used by other people to have the development team report their status to them.

This does not mean that nobody besides the development team is allowed to be at the Daily Scrum of the team. In fact people that are interested in the work of the team can be at the Daily Scrum and are more than welcome to do so.

The product owner is someone you would see attending Daily Scrum meetings because of the close collaboration with the development team and the high interest in the progress the product owner naturally will have. But it could also be that stakeholders attend the Daily Scrum or maybe Scrum masters from other teams. The bottom line rule however is that anyone can attend the standup but only the development team participates in it.

Who is responsible for the Daily Scrum?

The team is responsible to conduct the Daily Scrum meeting, it is their tool intended for their benefit so nobody else but the team itself is responsible to use it.

“But what about the role of the Scrum Master?” you might ask. Quite often the misconception is that the Scrum Master carries the entire responsibility of the Daily Scrum. Besides the fact that an approach like this could turn the Daily Scrum into a “reporting to the Scrum Master” meeting, the self organizing team should not be fully dependent on the Scrum Master for this essential meeting.

So what is the role of the Scrum Master then? The Scrum Master has the responsibility to ensure Scrum is understood and used and acts as a servant leader to the team. For the Daily Scrum, the Scrum Master:

  • Ensures that there is a Daily Scrum.
  • Trains and coaches the team to improve their Daily Scrum.
  • Ensures that only the development team members participate in the Daily Scrum.

Why do team members stand up during the Daily Scrum?

Most people refer to the daily scrum as the daily standup meeting. If you read the official scrum guide it does not mention standing as a requirement for any of the scrum events and therefore also not for the daily scrum meeting.

But if it is not required to stand during this meeting, why do most teams stand during the Daily Scrum? There are a number of benefits in standing during the meeting:

  • Standing will keep the meeting short. People in general don’t like standing for a long time, standing during the Daily Scrum meeting will make it easier to keep the meeting within the 15 minute timebox that it should fit in.
  • Standing increases the blood circulation and blood circulation brings oxygen to the brain which in it’s turn improves the thinking process.
  • Doing the Daily Scrum standing ensures more focus on the contents of the Daily Scrum instead of other distractions such as your e-mail, doodling in your notebook, etc.

So even though standing up is not a requirement, it definitely can increase the quality and therefore the value that you will get out of the Daily Scrum.

Daily Scrum practices to try.

As a conclusion of this article I would like to share some of the Daily Scrum practices I have experienced benefitting teams to get the most of their Daily Scrum meetings.

These are not recipies, depending on your context and your team things might or might not work. Simply said “what worked for us does not necesarrily work for you as well”. If you find anything you can use feel free to try it out and I am always interested to hear about your experiences and tweaks with Daily Scrum practices.


1. Create a parking lot.

Quite often during a Daily Scrum topics come up that might not be of interest for all team members. It is important to prevent getting lost into long conversations during the Daily Scrum and especially if they don’t involve all team members at the Daily Scrum.

Create a parking lot to park topics that come up during the Daily Scrum but should be discussed afterwards. This way the topics don’t get forgoten and team members can decide who wants to be involved in the conversation of a certain topic.


2. Change the order.

Sticking to a fixed order in the Daily Scrum will increase the probability of it becoming a habit and people being less focussed until it is their turn.

Change the order or process from time to time to keep some variation in it. Some examples:

  • Use a talking stick and use a pull mechanism to decide who’s next. The next person that wants to talk asks for the talking stick.
  • Let the sprint backlog decide the order of your Daily Scrum.


3. Same Bat time. Same Bat Channel.

Have your Daily Scrum each day and at the same time. Regularity helps teams adopt the practice and it will feel as less of an interuption in your workday if it is conducted at the same time each day.

Having your Daily Scrum at the same time each day also ensures that everyone has the possibility to prepare for it. Providing a nice bridge to the next tip…. preparation.


4. Prepare for your Daily Scrum

Prepare for a Daily Scrum? Yes I would always advise team members to do some form of preparation for their Daily Scrum.

This preparation can be very simple by just looking at the Sprint backlog, burndown and goal and gather your thoughts about it. This would probably take at most a few minutes but will make the Daily Scrum a lot more effective.


5. Don’t exclude remote workers.

The Daily Scrum should include all team members. Therefore if you have people working remotely from other offices or maybe even from home, this does not discharge them from being in the teams Daily Scrum.

And with all the technology we have in todays world it is also not necesarry to exclude remote workers. With the use of mobile phone, Skype, Google hangout and such we can connect with people all over the world. Based on personal experience in working with remote teams I would strongly advice to use video conference during the Daily Scrum when involving team members that are working remotely.


6. Keep an impediment backlog.

Impediments are not only the blocking problems that should be resolved instantly. Anything that prevents a team from being the optimal high performance team that they can be is an impediment to that team.

Having an impediment backlog helps you to:

  • Keep track of all open impediments.
  • Prioritize impediments.
  • Ensure that not only the impediments that actually completely block the team get identified.


7. 15 minutes is 15 minutes.

The 15 minute timebox for the Daily Scrum is there to keep the meeting focussed and efficient, it does not get extended when teams get bigger or when there are issues to discuss.

Get to the point in the Daily Scrum and park anything that does not belong in it.

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