The daily scrum is the event where the development team inspects and adapts their work plan in order to make the most progress possible towards their sprint goal each day. It is one of the most misunderstood events in the scrum framework, and often implemented ineffectively. By understanding the purpose of the event, your team can realize much more value from their daily scrum.
Often, the first thing a person learns about scrum is the traditional way to run a daily scrum. They learn the three magic questions: What tasks did I get done yesterday? What tasks will I do today? What impediments am I aware of?
What people often don’t learn is why the team holds a daily scrum. If team members don’t understand the purpose, it’s very easy for the daily scrum to devolve into a meaningless status meeting, where each team member walks away wondering why they just wasted 15 minutes of their day.
The purpose of daily scrum is to allow the development team to self-organize around what work should be done today. Most scrum teams work in the complex domain. This means the team’s understanding of the work emerges and changes every day. New tasks are discovered. Some work takes longer than expected. New problems, or opportunities, emerge. In order to be effective, the team needs to inspect and adapt their work plan every day.
The daily scrum has a time box of 15 minutes. Typically, each team member shares what work they completed yesterday, and what work they believe they should contribute today. If there are any problems (impediments), those are brought to light as well. Today’s important work might be removing one of those impediments. Once every team member has shared what they believe they should contribute today, the entire team steps back and looks at the list of tasks that haven’t been picked up. They identify any work that is more important than the work currently slated for the day. Then they collectively adjust their work plan for the day, so that by the end of the daily scrum, the team is confident they are addressing the most important issues for the day.
What Else Might Happen At The Daily Scrum?
Many teams use the daily scrum as their opportunity to decide if a product backlog item(story) is done or not. This makes sense because in the daily scrum, the team is focused on the work, often called tasks or sub-tasks. If there is a product backlog item that has no remaining tasks, then implicitly the development team believes they are done. For an item to be considered done, we really want the entire team to agree. In this way, each member of the team contributes to the decision and is accountable. We want the whole team to own the done decision.
Some teams take a daily confidence vote at their daily scrum. How confident are we that we will achieve our sprint goal? How confident are we that we will complete all the product backlog items that we had committed to this sprint? A common technique for taking that poll is a fist-to-five survey.
Adding or removing product backlog items from the sprint could happen as well during the daily scrum. We do not want the business or the product owner to push scope change onto the team, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the team to pull a scope change from the product owner. For example, if it’s now clear the team will not be able to complete all the stories they originally committed to, it’s a good idea to ask the product owner which product backlog item they would like to sacrifice. The development team can refocus their efforts on the remaining items, thus increasing the chances that those will get done. Similarly, the team might realize they will complete the last of their committed product backlog items today, and there is time left in the sprint. The developers would ask the product owner what product backlog item they should start on next.
At the daily scrum, the development team will inspect and adapt for the sake of the sprint. They will adjust what work is to be done, and by whom, in order to have the best possible outcome this sprint. It supports self-organization, team ownership and accountability for delivering on their sprint goal.
- Daily scrum description in the Scrum Guide
- Daily Scrum: The fourth question
- It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings