3 Warning Signs That Your Daily Scrum Is Failing, and 3 Ideas to Fix It

Have you ever attended a 1-hour Daily Scrum before? If so, I have a feeling you wish to avoid those types of meetings if at all possible! Many teams that are new to Scrum begin their Scrum journey by meeting daily, which is a fine place to start. However, most of these teams struggle with the Daily Scrum because they don’t understand the purpose, which often leads to a long, arduous and painful experience for everyone. While Scrum is unique in its simplicity, it also confounds the most intelligent and experienced professionals in many ways.Daily Scrum

To give you a few tips for improving your struggling Daily Scrum, I have compiled a few signs that you should watch for as you strive towards building a successful Scrum team. Here are a few warning signs that tells you that something needs to be done to change your team’s approach if you would like to set the team back on the path towards success.

  1. Your team refers to it as a “status meeting” – Most project teams are accustomed to a regular status meeting to review progress of tasks and current issues. Having served as a Project Manager myself, it seems that the typical norm is a weekly status meeting. Due to historical experience, it is easy for new Scrum teams to automatically assume that the Daily Scrum is merely a status meeting where everyone reports their progress, which is not what the founders of Scrum intended. The Daily Scrum is designed to serve as an opportunity for the team to devise a plan for the day based on information learned from the previous day. So, how can your team stop making this mistake day in and day out? One suggestion sounds oddly simplistic, and is potentially awkward – stop using the word “status” altogether! There is no value in referring to “status” when the goal is to create a daily plan. Encourage the team to share their “progress” and “impediments” – not “status”. Guide the team to create a team plan for the next 24-hour period towards the Sprint Goal. If you can accomplish this, your team will be back on the right track.
  2. Your team members only talk about their own tasks – Another common sign that your team is failing at the Daily Scrum is easily observed by each team member only talking about their own activities. The team should operate by embracing collective ownership of desired outcomes, and if each team member is working individually on their own tasks, your team is not a team, but rather, just a group of people who are forced to work in close proximity of each other physically, which adds minimal value. How do you correct this? One proven approach is to focus on the work items instead of individuals; walk through each task (or story) on your Scrum board and discuss which team members can assist in making progress on that work item towards the Sprint Goal. Remember – “Scrum” comes from the sport of Rugby, which is a team sport; no individual can succeed alone.
  3. Your team expects the Scrum Master to “run the meeting” – I guess-timate that about 90% of Scrum teams that I have encountered look to the Scrum Master to run the Daily Scrum. While this is not necessarily surprising to you, it goes against the design by the founding fathers of Scrum. The Daily Scrum is intended for the developers, the people building the product (or service) that will add value to the customer. Waiting for the Scrum Master to “call the shots” or “lead the meeting” reinforces the “status meeting” mentality in which project team members expect to report status to the Project Manager. To change the tone of your Daily Scrum, ask your Scrum Master to purposely NOT attend the Daily Scrum occasionally and see how the team reacts. If the team wastes time and does not have the conversation on their own, you have some work to do; you will likely need to remind them that the team as a whole is empowered to self-manage, and that they should have all the necessary skills and knowledge to evaluate the state of the work items and identify impediments.

To conclude this brief article, if your see the warning signs that I have shared within your Daily Scrums, don’t feel bad – most Scrum teams are failing on a regular basis and are probably unaware of the negative behaviors that are hampering them. With this new-found knowledge, hopefully you will be more aware of your team’s situation and be better-positioned to help them pivot towards a better path.

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai