Daily Scrum, Effective or a waste of time?

We have been doing Daily Scrums for the past 15 months, but have you really thought of the real impact this activity has on us as an entire team? Or on the leads? Or the business? I don’t think so. I’m noticing lately that this practice is not being appreciated; therefore I’ll give you an insight into the importance of this practice we struggle to do every day.

First of all for those of you who don’t know what scrum is:

Scrum is a management framework for incremental product development using one or more cross functional, self-organizing teams of about seven people each. Scrum provides a structure of roles, meetings, rules, and artifacts. Teams are responsible for creating and adapting their processes within this framework. The greatest potential benefit of Scrum is for complex work involving knowledge creation and collaboration, such as new product development. Scrum is usually associated with object-oriented software development. Its use has also spread to the development of products such as semiconductors, mortgages, and wheelchairs. [1]

We have been doing DS at namshi mainly to enhance our communication and report everything we do transparently. However, this is not the only reason why we do daily scrums, probably the obvious ones are to keep the entire team up to date on how things are going, to keep a room for corrections/considerations/questions and finally to be able to plan ahead what you’re going to do and make sure you already accomplished your TO-DO list for the previous day. On the other hand, some of the benefits are less obvious to us and we never consider them, daily scrums are actually very effective when it comes to building trust within team members, mainly because you are being honest to your colleagues about who can expect what and when, you’re transparent about the potential risks that are probably caused by something you are working on and finally the fact that your sharing/taking such information with/from them enhance the relationship and trust between you all. You trust them, you listen to their opinions and sometimes you would ask for it because you trust their experience, it’s just a matter of trust. Another benefit is to encourage personal planning. Whether you do it intentionally or not, you always end up planning or at least thinking about what you are going to say during daily scrum. Even if you end up improvising, the fact you have everything organized in your head means that you are planning things properly which is TADAAA a really great thing for a developer. Planning your tasks and tickets and organizing them has a great impact on how you are managing your time. Daily scrum are not to make you feel important about yourself if you are responsible for various things, and not to give the rest of the team this impression. It’s not to judge you or to make you feel that other people are doing more tasks or more things than you (we already have MONTHLY reviews for this don’t worry). In simple words it helps us all to be up to date with our project vision and build a one-unit team.

Now, how can we make sure that what we are doing is an effective DS and not a waste of time. First of all, what you need to do as a team member is a really simple pattern:

1. Say what you are going to do.

2. Do what you said you are going to do {obviously).

3. Report that you did it/doing it/having problems while doing it and       need help.

4. Repeat 1-3

If you do this then you are AWESOME, we are done with your responsibility now the team. DS is a stand up meeting => we are burning calories when we are standing => standing requires an effort ======> MAKE IT SHORT. We really don’t want to listen to the story of your life, as tempting as it may seem (ok we do care about you) but now we are standing to do this quick meeting and discuss things quickly, we have 8 working hours to discuss things in details, in fact we can do detailed DS while we are sitting if you would want to discuss things in depth with the rest of the team, so KEEP IT SHORT (not too short plz though). The main reason why it’s better to plan what you are going to say and make sure it’s not super detailed is because we don’t want it to be a boring meeting and the most important part we want the information to be conceived properly, sometimes the things you are saying could be really important and things could go wrong but if your too detailed we will be less likely to notice every single detail you mention. Finally, timings, Daily scrums should be done at the beginning of the day, not one hour before lunch break, WHAT’s THE POINT??? It’s to start your day with not to enhance your appetite.

If we can do this properly we will be able to improve ourselves and our relationship as a team.

Some of the important goals of doing this activity are:

1. To give you a motivation to start your day well (and organized ofc).

2. To support your improvement and help you get through your issues.

3. To reinforce our focus on the right things and right aspects of the      business and the development cycle.

4. To reinforce the sense of the team and the team spirit.

5. To communicate what’s going on.

So mainly we are starting our day properly, we are improving, focusing, building our relationship as team members and finally we are conveying the status of our tasks.

So let’s please try to treat this activity as a positive addition to our team values and give it some extra attention (at least half of the attention you give to your hungry tummy). And as Joe Ely said on Daily start-up meetings “the purpose is not to meet… it is to improve”.

[1] James, M. 2010. Scrum Reference Card. [e-book] p. 1. Available through: scrumreferencecard http://scrumreferencecard.com/ScrumReferenceCard.pdf [Accessed: 7th July 2013].