August 2009


Teams often run their stand-ups according to all rules and descriptions, but still not reach their Sprint Goal. Why? How can this be avoided? Most probably the teams are not sufficiently focusing on the Sprint Goal.

One solution could be to add a fourth question to the stand-ups:

  • Do you honestly believe we will reach the Sprint Goal?

Mitch Lacey writes:

What is the fourth question in Scrum? Its simplicity is embarrassing, but it is a valuable tool to ensure that the team is on track—especially for new teams. In the daily Scrum meeting, start with the three questions as you normally would:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • What blocking issues do I have?

Now add the following:

  • What is your confidence, on a scale of one to ten, that the team will accomplish the goal of this Sprint?

That’s it.

via Scrum Alliance -“Four”warned Is ForearmedHow adding a new question to your daily standup can uncover hidden bombshells.

In my experience, a good Daily Scrum has several characteristics:

1. The ScrumMaster does not routinely ask the questions. If s/he does, the meeting degenerates into reporting.

2. The Team Members talk to each other, not to the ScrumMaster, and even challenge each other on what is being said.

3. The Daily Scrum stays in its time box. If you are disciplined and doing it right, there is no need for it to exceed 15 Minutes. If you have an ‘After-Scrum’ for other topics, it too should be time-boxed to 15 minutes, and should stay in its time box.)

4. After the Daily Scrum, you know if you need to talk to your fellow team members. You might not know how they will pass their time, but you know what they are trying to accomplish. If it affects you, you should know it.

Teams that self organize develop a daily rhythm: Quiet before the Daily Scrum. A phase of intense conversation follows the Daily Scrum which then settles into silence until lunch time. Another phase of conversation follows the lunch break and dissolves into silence for the rest of the day. This is pulse of a self-organizing team. If you can feel the pulse, the team is healthy and the Daily Scrum is doing its job.

via How to Hold the Daily Scrum | Agile Software Development.

A Scrum Team works together against a common goal. There is a goal to release the product at a certain date, but there is also a goal for the current Sprint. The Team have identified a number of tasks in their Sprint Backlog that is needed to achieve the Sprint Goal.

Everybody in the team must together take responsibility to complete the tasks in the Sprint Backlog. In Scrum there is no (traditional) Project Manager who assigns tasks to the Team members. Each member must do this!

There must be a little bell ringing for the the rest of the team when someone reports that he is still working the the same task for three days. There must be a hidden impediment here! This lack of progress affects the whole team and jeopardize the possibility for the team to reach the Sprint Goal.

Everybody on the team must also have some basic idea of how the Sprint should be completed. Some tasks may have longer duration or are on the critical path and must be started early in the Sprint. When you pick the next task you have to have this in mind. Also watch out for people that pick fun and easy task that have low priority.

Scrum-of -scrums is a good technique to scale the the Daily Scrum practice.  This works for some extent, but above a certain team size you do not get effective communication withing your project-team. Fortunately there is a solution to this: Story based stand-ups.

Some Agilists believe that practices like Scrum of scrums can only scale to a certain extent. Large teams need an alternative format for doing effective stand-ups which can be completed quickly. Story based stand-up sounds like an effective alternative for larger teams.

via InfoQ: Do Stand-ups Stand Up for Larger Teams?.

This is also confirmed by Kevin E. Schlabach:

Our pseudo-Kanban board (I say pseudo since it is not by the book) is already prioritized from top to bottom by the CEO/product owner. Now, instead of going around the room by person, we work from top to bottom. I play the role of scrum master, so I point at each card. The team speaks about what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and what is blocking them.

Problems are identified when presented at Daily Scrum meeting. Solutions can be found early that eliminates the problem.

Daily Scrum

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/improveit/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

The team members present what them have done sine sine yesterday and plan to-do today. In addition to this, impediments stopping them are also presented. Anything stopping the team to complete features and tasks such as  technical problems or problems with the work environment. The team can often solve these problems internally, but often the Scrum Master must take responsibility of a problem and find a solution to it.

Scrum Master must also be observant on non-presented impediments. There may be collaboration problems in the team. Someone may have problem at home or drinking too much. Independent of type of problem it is the Scrum Master’s task to eliminate these problems.

As a consequence impediments are always brought up to the surface immediately so that they can be removed. This is one of the reasons why Scrum teams have so high productivity: People are not simply not allowed to struggle with problems they cannot solve themselves.

Daily Scrum is not easy. There are many traps that you may step into.

The following problems can occur:

  • Storytelling
  • Reporting to the Scrum Master
  • Accounting for time rather than results and goals
  • Invisible (electronic) task boards
  • Other stakeholders attending the Daily Scrum
  • Late Arrivals and Unexcused Absences
  • Not raising impediments
  • Not handling impediments
  • Not helping each other
  • Low Energy

It is important that you as a Scrum Master to be aware of these “smells” since the Daily Scrum Meeting will not be as effective.

Solutions to these problems can be found here:

ScrumMaster Murphy: Ten problems in the Daily Scrum, and what you can do about them! | Agile Software Development.

This is a video where Scrum Trainers play what can happen when the Daily Scrum meeting does not work.

The actors were give the following instructions:

An Exercise in the Management of Scrum Smells

The Dysfunctional Scrum exercise normally goes down very well as part of agile training. Its great fun but, more importantly, lets participants experience the World’s worst Daily Scrum. The exercise can lead on to a useful discussion on how to deal with common Scrum smells.

The exercise requires 8 volunteers. Each volunteer draws a card, reads it and keeps the content secret. Each card contains one of the following instructions:

  • Be very vague about what you did yesterday.
  • Attempt to distract the people next to you
  • Get really technical about what you did or are going to do so nobody on the team understands your jargon.
  • You’ve been struggling with the same task for the last 5 days.
  • Try and talk for as long as possible about what you did yesterday or are going to do today.
  • Always interrupt others when they are talking.
  • Turn up late to the Daily Scrum.
  • You are the Scrum Master. Facilitate the Daily Scrum.

via The Dysfunctional Scrum.

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