Friday, April 29, 2011

The Daily Scrum Stand-up is Not a Meeting

One of the bigger complaints that you'll hear from Scrum Teams is that the daily scrum stand-up meetings are a chore. Upon further investigation you'll probably find a few commonalities.

Problem: The Daily Standup is a meeting
What do you call it when a bunch of people leave their desks to gather in a room to talk about something? It's not a stand-up (even if you're all standing), that's a meeting and it typically involves a lot of waiting for everybody to get there.
Solution: The Daily Standup is not a meeting
The entire team should fit into a single room (team size is another post). The Scrum master walks in the room (preferably at a known time) asks everyone to standup, we go around the room chatting about progress and problems and everyone gets back to work within 10-15 minutes unless something really interesting comes up. If an important stake-holder, Product Owner or anyone other than a team-member isn't there then they'll miss it.

Problem: The Daily Standup kills productivity
Imagine you're changing the oil in your car, you're wedged underneath the engine, elbow deep in the bowels of the vehicle just getting ready to pull out the oil filter (try to imagine if you've never actually done this before). Now imagine you have to drop everything, walk away from the car altogether to tell everyone about your progress on the oil change. Now you get to ease yourself back under the car, wedge your arm back up to the oil filter and start over again. If this were a daily thing then I'd start to get annoyed as well.
Solution: The Daily Standup happens quickly and early
Ideally the standup should happen first thing in the morning and before anyone starts in on their tasks for the day. In practice this doesn't always work since developers may come in at different times. Try to make the standup as early as possible before any serious work gets started.

Problem: Nobody pays attention at the Daily Standup
We're all here, doing the daily standup, each team member is taking turns telling everybody the details of what he did yesterday. Twenty minutes later, pretty much everyone has their phones out and not a soul is paying attention. We've now lost essentially 1/24 of a workday to an essentially useless Scrum Excercise
Solution: The daily standup is quick and/or interesting
"I fixed that date/time conversion bug yesterday, and I was gonna grab that sorting speed task today." "Ran into an issue with the search sproc yesterday, it was only returning a max of 400 results, got that sorted out and I'll be finishing up the search task for the user admin page today." Now imagine that happening for every team member on a 7 person team. The standup goes pretty quick doesn't it? The only time the meeting should go long is if somebody has a very interesting problem at which point the developers may spend some time discussing it. The standup should be either very short or very interesting but not boring. If it is boring, it's your fault (as the Scrum Master) for not educating the team in how to use this time.

Bottom Line: The daily stand-up is a major part of building a great Scrum team provided you don't screw it up by turning it into another corporate event. The stand-up centers around the Scrum team and nothing else. It's small amount of time (emphasis on the small) for the Scrum team to center in on their progress, goals and issues that are important to them. Anything else you do during the stand-up amounts to overhead.

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