Have you ever been to a Daily Scrum meeting that took more than 15 minutes? Maybe even 20-30 minutes or longer? Mostly those daily meetings are hated by Developers. They are long and unproductive (I have seen "stand-ups" which took more than one hour). Assuming that people's daily productivity cycle lasts about 5 hours, the Daily Scrum takes 20% of that time, which is really frustrating. Especially when deadlines are close.
In this article we will focus on the most crucial and common mistakes that make Daily Scrums ineffective.
Lack of a Sprint Goal
Does every Sprint have a clear Sprint Goal? If there's no goal there's no point in doing a Sprint. The same with the Daily Scrum. There are three standard questions suggested by a Scrum Guide that are asked during a Daily Scrum:
- What did I do yesterday to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
- What I will do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
- Are there any impediments preventing me or my Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?
As you can see all three questions are focused on the Sprint Goal. If the entire team works for a definite, clear goal there is no need for extra discussions.
If you face a problem with defining a clear goal for your team there are few mandatory questions to be asked:
- Is the product management strategy effective?
- Is your team not big enough?
Lack of Backlog Refinement
During a Sprint, the Scrum Team spends 10% of its time on refining the Product Backlog and to prepare requirements for the next Sprint. The next common reason for a prolonged Daily Scrum is insufficient informing of team members. The absence of clarified requirements leads to numerous questions regarding work that has to be done on a daily basis.
Insufficient informing can't be eliminated completely by good Backlog Refinement. Our task is to minimize the risk of the unknown while we still have time. If we are doing it a week before working on a particular requirement starts there is plenty of time to answer all the questions. What is more important there is time to find the right person to address those questions. An important thing to keep in mind is that work should not be chaotic. It should be effective and results-driven.
People often make excuses for not doing Backlog Refinement saying there is no time for for that during the Sprint. The real reason for not doing it is that they have never done it before so they do not have time to do it right now.
"Plans are nothing but planning is everything" ~ Dwight 'Ike' Eisenhower.
Is your Sprint Planning efficient enough? Do you think you spend enough time on planning? Can you answer the following questions?
- What result do we want to receive at the end of the Sprint? What will be the visible change in our product at the end of the Sprint?
- How do we want to achieve it?
- Why do we do it? What is the business goal?
An efficient plan should be elaborated during Sprint Planning otherwise you will have to totally change the plan during the Sprint itself at every Daily Scrum meetings. Of course, planning could minimize the risk but never eliminate it totally. It is not a problem when plans are adjusted during the Daily Scrum, but it might be a problem when you have to totally change them every day.
Lack of a Sprint Goal, lack of backlog refinement, insufficient planning. From these three examples of common mistakes, it is clear how a Daily Scrum can cease to retain its quality. I do not claim that those factors are the only possible ones. However, resolving these three pivotal factors multiplies your chances to have a resolving and effective Daily Scrum.
A notion to remember when facing a Daily Scrum problem is not to attempt to "heal" it with express methods like setting the time countdown at every Daily Scrum, but to search for the root cause instead.
Experience shows that in most cases the legitimate reasons for all those issues are the lack of process understanding and inefficient methods usage. I suggest you answer the following question: Is every team member informed well enough about what the goal of a Daily Scrum meetings is and why does it look like that?