Efficacy Of The Daily Scrum

For the last 8 years, I have seen many interpretations of how a scrum team is to operate.   All have been modified in some way, some good and some bad.  One component that I have not seen changed is the format of the daily scrum. What I would like to talk about is the efficacy of the daily scrum as it is defined in the scrum.org handbook.

All the way back to 2008, the daily stand-up has always answering the three following questions:

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

Each morning, we would go around the room (or voice chat) and talk about these three questions.  I noticed that there was very low engagement and most people were just reporting status to the scrum master.  I have even seen a fourth question asked, “What have I learned since yesterday” and it woke people up.  I think that it is a great question since it can help the team and I always liked to share anyway.

Recently I was on a particular scrum team working on a project that had a lot of dependencies.  As each person spoke up, I started to realize that I was not getting any value out of what they did yesterday.  This began to needle at me, since this was a ceremony that was required to happen daily.

I started to only answer the second question, “What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?”.  I felt that this was really what the team cared about.  What is interesting about the work that I am about to do that will help to drive us forward.

It didn’t take too long before it caught on and now the meetings are shorter.  Not only are the meetings shorter, but we are acting more collaboratively.  I don’t think that all of the credit for the increase collaboration can be attributed to the modified daily scrum, because the team was already pretty kick-ass to begin with!

I know that scrum is a guide and you have to inspect / adapt to make it work for you, but the daily stand-up has, in my experience, remained unchanged over the last 8 years.  If I were asked about the efficacy of the traditional daily stand-up, I would have to say it is low.

Changing the format of this meeting has helped our team be more successful.  One of the next posts that I am going to write is inspired by Allen Holub.  I want to write about the efficacy of scrum compared to a more bare bones agile process and kanban.  Until then, cheers.