The Intended Outcome of a Daily Scrum

The Daily Scrum, or “stand-up”, is a critical ceremony in the Agile Scrum framework.  Like so many aspects of Scrum, the Daily Scrum meeting is easy to do but hard to master.  Teams that lack the proper focus or guidance will find themselves lost in “yet another status meeting” and fail to achieve the truly valuable intended outcome of the ceremony.  So, what exactly is the intended outcome?

Scrum, as a whole, was founded on empirical process control.  The core principles of this empirical approach are inspection, adaptation, and transparency.  The goal here is to accelerate learning through experimentation and modification, using objective data as a guide.  Scrum teams work in short iterations, called sprints, to maximize the feedback loop on the products and services they deliver.  Review and Retrospective sessions at the end of each sprint seek to use feedback, from both customers and the Scrum team, to help improve the future work and output of the team.  The daily Scrum is also an opportunity to employ this “inspect and adapt” approach.

The Scrum Guide explains the Daily Scrum as follows:

The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours. This optimizes team collaboration and performance by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting upcoming Sprint work. The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity.”

Hidden neatly in the middle of that paragraph is the primary outcome that should come from a Daily Scrum meeting: “…. the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours.”  Teams should use this daily 15-minutes to review their progress from the previous day and then decide how they will make additional progress over the next 24 hours.

Also, per the Scrum Guide, teams answer 3 questions during the Daily Scrum:

  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 Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

Notice that each question ends with the words “the Sprint Goal”.  This is because the Daily Scrum ceremony is an opportunity for a team to tactically plan together how to continue completing their commitments and the Sprint Goal.  It is an opportunity to review the burn down chart and discuss how to stay on track.  It is an opportunity to raise impediments so that they can get resolved and the work can continue.   It is a short burst of communication and organization.  The Daily Scrum is a mini-planning session that helps keep teams on track.

To better optimize their Daily Scrum ceremony, teams can try these three tips:

  1. Utilize the questions from the Scrum guide verbatim.Too many times, teams simply launch into “What did you do yesterday and what are you going to do today?”  This leads to rambling updates and a loss of focus on the Sprint Goal.  Keep the questions focused on progress toward completion.
  2. Talk about impediments.Sometimes teams neglect to mention impediments because they have accepted them as status quo or because they simply don’t recognize them as impediments.  It is perfectly acceptable to mention an afternoon full of meetings as an impediment to progress.  The Scrum Master, or other team members, may be able to help cover the meetings or postpone them.  Raising impediments is a key element to the Daily Scrum.
  3. Talk about the burn down.  Too many times, teams neglect to review the burn down chart at the end of their Daily Scrum.  If progress isn’t monitored continuously, the team doesn’t know whether they are on track for the end of the sprint.

Scrum is a process of continuous adaptation and improvement.  What works for one team may not work for another, but the important thing is that the team continue trying to get better at delivering valuable work in a short timeframe.   The Daily Scrum is an opportunity to collaborate and improve every 24 hours.  It may very well be some of the most important 15 minutes of the day.

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Jeremiah Hopkins
Jeremiah Hopkins