Effective daily scrums – and how to achieve them

In this case my advice is contrary to what I usually say. This time my advice is not to go by the book!

Remember the purpose of the daily scrum

The purpose of the daily scrum is to plan ahead for the next 24 hours. It is not about reporting progress. Of course it is an important part of the planning to know the current situation, but the focus should be on the things you are about to do.

“What did I do in the last 24 hours”, “What will I do in the next 24 hours”, “What hinders me in achieving the sprint goal?” – those (paraphrased) questions from the scrum guide, are there to facilitate a purpose as my esteemed friend and colleague Tom Breur points out. The purpose being constantly navigating the best way to achieve the business goal for the day.

It is like action planning for firemen

The daily scrum is more like firemen planning on how to tackle a burning house they are about to enter.

They don’t talk about how they clung to the seats when the fire truck skewed around the corners – it is all about the future.
“I’ll go to the left with hose”, “I’ll break the door open, so that someone can use the powder extinguisher” “As soon as you’ve broken up the door, I’ll use the powder extinguisher to quench the flames in the hallway” etc.

Nobody want’s to know how they quenched the last fire – it’s the future that counts here. (I really love this example, courtesy of another esteemed friend and colleague, David)

Turn it around

The least you can do, to make the daily scrum more efficient and effective is to turn the questions around. Start with the future, mention any impediments you actually have and then talk a little bit about what you did. If there is anything left that the others don’t know from the last daily meeting or the events in between.

It is not for 24 hours!

And what’s more: You don’t have to talk about your plans for the next 24 hours – all you have to do is to talk about your working time, and in most places this would amount to roughly 8 hours.

Talk about the future

If you have to tell your colleagues what you did in the last 24… sorry, 8 working ours, you probably didn’t tell them what you planned to do in the last daily meeting. Or you had to diverge from your plans. If you had to diverge I very much hope you didn’t wait till the deadline. After all the daily meeting is a deadline for the things you planned at the last daily meeting. You told your colleagues what you had planned to do between then and the following daily scrum. Usually it is a good idea to let everybody on the team know what has changed just as soon as you find out. It just might happen to interfere with the work of your colleagues as well. After all you would like to know if a co-worker changes his mind if your work depends on their result. Even – or especially – if they have a good reason for changing their plans.

So if you talk about the last 24 8 working hours you’ll only end up telling people what they already know. Either from the last daily scrum or from observations and information during the last 8 working hours.

Instead, think of the firemen planning to extinguish the fire in a burning house – or the A-Team planning a mission.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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