Daily Scrum: Neither status meeting nor ad hoc discussion

A wristwatch on a person's arm.
In the Scrum Guide the Daily Scrum is described as follows: 

„The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute event for the Developers of the Scrum Team. To reduce complexity, it is held at the same time and place every working day of the Sprint.“ 

The Daily Scrum Meeting is a meeting where the Developers get together to talk about what they have achieved since the last meeting, what they have planned for today, and if there were any obstacles or problems. During this meeting, only the Developers get to speak. If there were impediments, then at the end of the meeting, the Scrum Master has created a list with the items that he needs to deal with. In addition, the work of the Developers is synchronised - everyone is on the same level as their colleague and ideally the whole team is a little closer to the Sprint Goal than before.
Often the term stand-up meeting is used synonymously with Daily Scrum. But there are some differences. In the stand-up meeting, which originally comes from Extreme Programming, not only the Developers exchange experiences, but also clients or the Agile Coach can be actively involved. In contrast to the Daily Scrum, the stand-up meeting is not an official Scrum Event, it is not described in the Scrum Guide and it is not time-boxed. Nevertheless, this meeting should also be kept short and not take up too much time - the fact that the participants should stand during this meeting helps to keep it short.

Well-intentioned, but poorly executed

Many companies want to become more agile and start working with the Scrum framework - true to the motto: The Scrum Guide has 14 pages, that can be implemented quickly. But it is not that simple. As you will certainly not read or hear for the first time: Scrum is a framework that cannot simply be "implemented", the mindset of the company and all involved (management, executives, employees) must change. It is not enough to have a Daily Scrum once a day and then pat yourself on the back and say: we are agile enough. And although the Daily Scrum is described comparatively detailed in the Scrum Guide, there are still some organisations where the Daily Scrum degenerates to a kind of status meeting. But that is not the purpose of this event: The Developers do not have to report to anyone on a daily basis, they exchange experiences and ideas with their colleagues, and possibly further need for discussion arises from the Daily Scrum, which can be deepened in a one-on-one meeting, outside of the Daily Scrum.

How can you get to the Daily Scrum the way it should be?

When a Daily Scrum becomes a status meeting in disguise, two other problems usually arise:
  1. Not only the Developers participate, but also other stakeholders. This means that there are no longer eight or fewer participants, but more people.
  2. Due to the increasing number of participants, the meeting does not last 15 minutes anymore, but longer - the timebox will be exceeded.
This not only affects the efficiency and meaningfulness of the meeting, but can also have quite banal consequences: If a meeting lasts 15 minutes and eight people attend, that's two staff hours spent per day on that meeting. But if the meeting lasts 45 minutes and 16 people attend, that's twelve staff hours - six times as much as would have been necessary and reasonable.

If the Daily Scrum is not held as it should be, then the Scrum Master is called upon. He is responsible for ensuring that the Scrum framework is implemented, adhered to and lived, and usually not only at the project level, but throughout the entire organisation. Likewise, the Developers should approach him if they are of the opinion that something needs to be changed in the project.

Ad-hoc meetings instead of Daily Scrum?

But why is the Daily Scrum necessary at all? Have you and your team ever considered simply skipping the Daily Scrum and instead talking about problems as they arise? Tools such as Slack, chat or video conferencing apps tempt to skip the Daily Scrum, but this is usually not a good idea. Aside from the fact that the Daily Scrum meeting is held not only to talk about problems and obstacles, but also to synchronise work, it brings other benefits.

If you consult ad hoc only with the colleagues involved in your problem, you don't have the opportunity to hear the opinion of other colleagues - and maybe exactly these opinions would be important for your further work? In addition, the Daily Scrum Meeting offers a good start to the day: everyone is informed about what will happen today. This way, no one is excluded, and everyone can pull together to work towards the Sprint Goal.

However, it can also be a disadvantage that the Daily Scrum is only held once a day. If problems suddenly arise that need to be solved immediately, then the participants can additionally meet spontaneously and talk about them, or, depending on the issue, approach the Scrum Master, which may possibly be the better decision. But don't forget to address this problem the next day anyway to update all Developers.

And what's wrong with additional ad hoc meetings? Basically, you and your team are self-organised. You should know best yourself whether ad hoc meetings suit your team and whether everyone benefits from them. However, one major drawback is that any spontaneous meeting can break in on your colleagues' thoughts, he may lose his focus or get out of the flow. Perhaps your colleague is busy programming, reflecting, or researching, and any interruption can contribute to them taking longer to complete their current work process. It's best to agree with your colleagues what ad hoc meetings might look like: For example, if all colleagues have turned off their email program's push notifications so they can work undisturbed, you could send out an email in advance letting them know you need to talk - if your colleague responds, you can seek them out, otherwise not.
Author: IAPM internal

Key words: Project management, Tip, Scrum

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