Merrill B. Lamont III
Does your Daily Scrum feel like a Status Meeting?
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
You know the scene.
The team files in. Gathers in a circle. Probably doesn't look at the task board, even if you have one, and even if it is showing.
Then you go around the circle, each person in turn, answering the 3 questions I know I learned when I started my career as a Scrum Master:
What did you do yesterday?
What do you plan on doing today?
Is there anything stopping or slowing you down?
As this happens, the speaking member directs their answer to one person, like a manager or the Scrum Master, who interjects with clarifying questions, or drops some knowledge like manna from heaven.
As this happens, the speaking member refers to their work using cryptic language involving a string of numbers: the task tracking tool's identifier. Most nod, at least feigning an understanding of what we're talking about. All sigh after their turn is done, ignoring their team mates and checking their phone for the latest comment made on the ScrumOnTraining blog. Or something else. Likely the blog, though :) .
After all this happens, victory is declared for the meeting having been fully facilitated. The team files out. Silence once more befalls the arena. Was there ever really a gathering? Was there ever really... a team?
Well that sucked.
Shall we do better?
I'll share what I've done.
The team trickles in. Gathers in a semi-circle around the information radiator that is the task board. As Scrum Master, I am early, ensuring all audio/video logistics are set to include our remote friends. I engage in witty banter, trying to get somebody to tell a story, either about their weekend, or an item behind where they are sitting if they're remote, or the shirt they are wearing, and how they obviously got the memo.
Before starting, I flash the burn-down chart to ground the team, gently switching contexts, and call out any items that may have entered or exited the Sprint Backlog, so we are all aware. Of course you ideally don't want this, but stuff happens, so we might as well be aware.
Two minutes deliberately late, I start:
I say, "What it is, everybody. Welcome to the Daily Stand-Up, where we see how we can help each other get... things... done. Starting with things in test."
I then point to the top of the right-most column, usually the 'Test' column, put that same pointing hand over my mouth to overtly cover it, then take a hefty step back, staring blankly into the middle of the gathering.
I shut up.
Team mates start talking.
As this happens, the speaking member may look at me. Fine. I then try two things.
I give them my solid eye contact. I then swing my head towards somebody else, as if to pull their gaze away from my eyes and onto somebody else's. Repeat.
If that non-verbal message doesn't stick, I stare at my shoes.
If I'm in the mood, I'll be explicit and, while giving them my solid eye contact, wave my hand, palm-up, around the gathering, to indicate there are other folks here. I'd rather not use my hand: it's an inevitable distraction from talking about the work.
(Fine, I'd try three things.)
As this happens, the speaking members refer to their work using simple English, pointing at the task board, and then moving down the column, before addressing the items in the next column furthest from 'Done'. If cryptic numerical identifiers emerge, I may interject with a, "Huh?" like manna from heaven. If I'm in the mood, I'll ask if anybody is blocked, before we finish discussing a column, else, I'll save the question for the very end.
After all this happens, I mention all the follow-up items that have been put in the "parking lot" to discuss after the Stand-Up, for those interested in partaking. I then ask, "Anything else before we close this puppy down?" I paws, I mean, pause. Anything brought up here is aggressively time managed, or thrown in the parking lot, to respect the Stand-Up time box. When we have stared at each other for approaching 6 seconds, which feels like a life-time, I end with, "Today is Wednesday. Happy Wednesday," replacing the day as appropriate, and then the floor is open for the parking lot. The team trickles out, depending on if there's a parking lot.
Well, this usually goes well.
Shall we do better?
I'll share what else I've done. In another blog post.