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  • Writer's pictureMerrill B. Lamont III

Does your Daily Scrum feel Awesome?

It should. Here's what I do. (See? I'm keeping my promise!)

Walk the Board

Follow along with how this works via my previous blog post.

Now fold in the following.

Ask Questions

There are normally more items on the task board than there are people. No surprise here. This means that it would take more time to trivially answer the questions of, "Any impediments?" if you do so per backlog item versus per person. So while I believe it's better practice for a conversation around an item to be brought fully to done (for the purposes of the Daily Scrum), I usually ask the impediments question after the board is fully walked.

Over time, I've found this is the start of a different section of the meeting... one where we address wrapping-up questions, asked of, and answered by the whole team.

  • Anybody blocked?

  • Anybody working on things not currently captured by the board?

  • Anybody unduly distracted?

  • Any bugs with heat?

That second one came from folks eventually sharing that they're tackling a project that their boss asked them to look into, or they looked at and then started working on something that's on the Product Backlog (so, for a future Sprint), or they are on a critical bug that we agreed mid-day to look into. This question is to non-judgmentally raise awareness and transparency. Actually, who am I kidding: there's some judgement. If we can help somebody with in-Sprint work, then that should be our next move, not look at potentially future work. If a boss is distracting a team mate, then I as Scrum Master should investigate. If there's a critical bug, then fine: let's set expectations for how we think this impacts the rest of the Sprint Backlog so that the Product Owner can go disappoint a stakeholder who may be expecting something come Demo time.

The third question is a way of re-asking the second, while also opening up the scope to other types of distraction at work, like being yanked to join an interview panel. This has included distractions outside of work, too, where we then bond as a team. I've heard folks be vulnerable and mention immigration issues of a spouse, or themselves. I've heard how people are sick, or moving, or dealing with a relative who recently died. I've heard the more joyous side via, "I just had an awesome weekend," or "I'm going to a concert tonight," or "that shirt is distracting," or "do I smell pancakes?"

The fourth question came from a discussion with QA, who wanted a regular forum to raise awareness of issues that are less than critical (those would've already interrupted us), but of some interest to the group. A positive outcome here is the tester raises a potential issue, either with in-Sprint work, or something shared from the field, and then a developer either claims ownership or at least interest, resulting in an offer to investigate further together. Hearing, "Hm. That's weird. Let me look at that with ya," always warms my heart.

Refine One Item

Oh this one I'm proud of.

I remember a particular Refining session where when folks were about to vote, one developer was looking at her laptop, simultaneously slowly bringing her fist into the center of the table for our ritual, "three, two, one, vote!" one-handed vote (yes, we can indicate '8 points' with one hand, and '13 points' becomes both hands thrown in the air in an exaggeratedly exasperated fashion). She cocked her head and voted, but obviously unhappily. I later asked her about that, to which she replied that she would have a more confident idea of 'cost' for a ticket if she had time to look at the code - she just needs about 5 minutes.

Hearing that was the 'cost' for estimating the 'cost', I added a section to the Daily where the team arrives having done homework.

  • Between Stand-Ups, they review the next highest priority item in the Product Backlog (that hasn't been estimated).

  • They ask any questions of the team regarding this item. This is priority, including ensuing discussion: get to a good enough understanding of the item so that they're comfy enough to start.

  • If there is time, they vote on and discuss story points for that item.

  • If we don't solidify on an estimate, then we continue preparing that one item, as well as investigating the next item, walking away a little bummed, but motivated.

  • If we do solidify on an estimate, then we look at the next item, walking away a little jazzed, and motivated.

In this way, we can refine nine items through the two-week Sprint without requiring a dedicated Refining session. This doesn't mean we don't have one - it means they're shorter, or they allow for deeper discussions.

Joke of the Day

Who's got a joke that'll get a solid groan out of everybody? Somebody usually plays point to to prepare one.

Folks react with some semblance of a smile.


The team trickles out.

No need for high-fives and chest bumps and battle cries.

What I need is the team to feel like they are helping each other get... things... done.

(Higher bar? I need the team to feel like they are improving somebody's life, either by reducing a user's pain, or helping a user kick ass.)

To me, this is how a Daily Scrum feels awesome.

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