Don’t Skip Your Recommended Daily Dose of Scrum

Don’t Skip Your Recommended Daily Dose of Scrum

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Can you remember what you ate a few days ago? How about a week or a month ago? We only tend to remember the extraordinarily delicious (or extraordinarily un-delicious) meals.

But all of them were important, even if we don’t remember them. How do we know that? Because if we hadn’t eaten any of them, we would not be alive right now. Similarly, missing a meal every now and then won’t do you terrible harm, but if you do it frequently enough, you will start to lose weight and become weaker.

In this way, daily scrums are like food: they play a vital role in keeping your team’s development process healthy. But, for some people, the daily scrum is an acquired taste. Sometimes it can feel burdensome, unnecessary or un-delicious, and you would rather skip it altogether. Resist the temptation.

Here are some objections you might hear from developers, product owners or even management regarding the daily Scrum. Perhaps you have even felt this way yourself.

“It’s boring. The code they are working on has nothing to do with me.”

The daily Scrum is a way to keep everyone informed about what everyone else is working on. This is important for cultivating a cross-functional team. Team members also learn how the code they are working on fits in with other code that someone else is working on, which is especially important if not everyone in the team is working on the same project.

And, even if they are working on entirely different applications, the types of issues different team members face can have common traits. If Alice hears that Bob, a junior team member, is wrestling with a memory leak that she knows how to fix, she can take that opportunity to coach Bob.

“Developers already talk to one another throughout the day. We don’t need a daily meeting for that.”

The spontaneous conversations that take place during the day tend to be operational in nature: Alice has a compiler error; Bob needs some information from Carol before he can define an interface; Dave can’t figure out why a file is missing and so on. They are focused on fixing immediate problems, whereas the daily Scrum is more of a tactical planning meeting.

It is not a problem-solving meeting, but rather a problem-surfacing meeting. You find out who is blocked and who can help, or who can find out who can help.

“This is a status meeting.”

Yes, developers share their status. But that’s like complaining that you must inhale in order to breathe. If the daily scrum consists solely of answering the three questions of what did I do/what will I do/what is holding me back and nothing else, then it is indeed just a status meeting.

But, just like you can’t breathe by only inhaling and never exhaling, your daily Scrum will not be effective if all of the communication is pointing away from the developer and there is none in return. As mentioned above, the daily Scrum is a problem-surfacing meeting, and problems can go unnoticed if no one comments or asks any follow-up questions. The Scrum Master might need to take the lead in digging a little deeper while the rest of the team develops the confidence or interest to do so themselves.

“It is ineffective or rude if you don’t let anyone except developers participate.”

Would you need people from outside the team to participate in a technical coding discussion? Would they even want to? The daily Scrum is a higher-level meeting than that, but only by a hair. If people can see it that way, they might be less inclined to insist on participating. And, with a 15-minute timebox, there isn’t much time for other people to participate effectively anyway.

Having daily Scrums is like maintaining a healthy eating regimen. You might not always want to do it, and some of the meals might be bland or occasionally downright yucky, but you can’t skip them. You might not see an immediate negative impact from doing so, and people might even be happy about it (yum, junk food!).

However, it can erode your team’s agility and cohesiveness over time. Similarly, positive effects may take time to manifest, but they will help your team bond and achieve an elevated level of performance.

Have you heard any other objections to the daily Scrum, from team members or otherwise? I'd love to read your experiences in the comments below.


Pedro G. Acevedo is a Scrum Master and project manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Puerto Rico

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