What’s Achieved in a Daily Scrum?

By Mark C. Layton

The daily scrum is one of the five scrum events and Stage 5 in the roadmap to value. The development team meets, and three statements are made by each development team member. Each statement is made in the context of how it is helping the team achieve its sprint goal:

  • Yesterday I accomplished this . . .

  • Today I’m going to focus on . . .

  • The things impeding me are . . .

    The daily scrum is an integral aspect of the sprint and Stage 5 in the roadmap to value.
    The daily scrum is an integral aspect of the sprint and Stage 5 in the roadmap to value.

The daily scrum is how the development team self-organizes and self-manages. Each day, they decide who will do what and who will help whom. It is not dictated to them by a project manager or some other nondeveloper.

Imagine a scrum team gathering around their sprint backlog or task board at the beginning of the day. Each individual can see at a glance the progress made the day before, and then each person proactively chooses a new task for the current day. They coordinate where help is needed to accomplish the task before the day ends, and then go straight to work.

Tasks should be broken down so that they can be accomplished in a day or less. Even then, when developers are left to themselves for days on end without coordinating and swarming as a team, they can get bogged down in unnecessary details or problems that could be easily resolved with two sets of eyes. Daily scrums synchronize a team, and everyone goes to work with complete ownership in helping each other do what it takes to get to done. Come the next day, the team members are more excited to talk about progress rather than a dry status report that goes something like, “I’m still working on that thing I talked about yesterday and the day before.”

A squeaky dog toy in scrum? Toss it to a random member of the development team, as you never want a set speaking order. Set speaking orders encourage people to check out until it’s their turn (and after), or worse yet, show up late just before it’s their turn “to go.” If anyone takes too long, switch to a timer ball that alarms or to a ream of paper — it weighs five pounds — and have them talk for as long as they can hold it out to the side. This keeps the daily scrum fast, forward moving, and fun.

As part of the daily scrum, have scrum masters participate beyond facilitation by addressing the impediments that are identified and/or in progress. For instance, the scrum master says after the team members have spoken:

  • Yesterday I removed this impediment . . .

  • Today I can remove this impediment . . .

  • The impediments I can’t remove are . . . and I’ll see whether so‐and‐so can help me.

Studies have shown that meetings conducted standing up are 34 percent shorter than those sitting down.

The following tactics can keep your daily scrum meetings quick and effective:

  • Diligently start on time.

  • Conduct the meeting standing up.

    No one has a chance to slump in his chair and relax. Rather, it’s as if they’re on the move already.

  • Focus the meeting on coordination, not solving problems.

    Impediments get removed after the daily scrum.

  • The scrum master is the meeting facilitator and, as necessary, keeps the meeting on time and on track, and makes sure that only development team members participate. The scrum master’s “touch” should be as light as possible.

    A title for a documentary about a day in the life of a scrum master might be Stand Back and Deliver.

  • Cover only immediate issues and priorities in relation to that very day as they support the sprint goal.

  • Gather around a representation of the team’s sprint backlog (the task board) to ensure context and focus.

    Don’t allow vague statements or rely on team members’ memories of what’s on the sprint backlog.

When impediments are uncovered in the daily scrum, they can be dealt with by the scrum master hosting an after party. An after party takes place immediately following the daily scrum involving only those who need to be involved, and is for addressing any issues that came up during the daily scrum, such as one developer asking another developer how to resolve a specific problem with their task, or discussing ways to resolve two conflicting tasks.