Making Daily Scrum Meetings Really Effective & Efficient (Part 1 of 5)

The Agile Scrum Framework is based on empirical process control. It requires transparency of the process and work product, and an ability to inspect so the team can adapt to achieve their goals.  An important element of this empirical process control is the daily Scrum meeting. I hope you will enjoy this 5-part series on how to make your daily Scrum meetings highly effective and efficient.

The entire Scrum team meets every day for the proverbial “15 minutes” to keep each member up to date and help coordinate and synchronize their work.  Each member makes commitments to peers, and explains his/her needs from peers.  Although the meeting is facilitated by the ScrumMaster, it is neither status reporting to the ScrumMaster nor management, nor a problem-solving or issue-resolution exercise.  Although any stakeholder may attend a daily Scrum meeting, only team members, the ScrumMaster or the Product Owner should talk; stakeholders can take up any observed issues with the ScrumMaster after the Scrum meeting is over.

Most agile/Scrum textbooks specify that each member of a team should address only three key topics in a daily Scrum meeting:

  1. What was done since the previous daily Scrum meeting?
  2. What is the work plan until the next Scrum meeting?
  3. What impediments are being faced which may block the work?

These three topics capture the spirit of daily Scrums well. But in my experience of observing hundreds of daily Scrum meetings across different clients, I find the topics don’t drill down to the nuts-and-bolts-level necessary for Scrum teams (especially new ones) to run their daily Scrum meetings effectively and efficiently.
When a new Scrum team starts out, there are many challenges in terms of making the daily Scrum really effective while limiting it to 15 minutes.  Many teams encounter various dysfunctions and anti-patterns that are typical of those shown in the “Low Effectiveness – Low Efficiency” quadrant on the Effectiveness-Efficiency of Daily Scrums table (shown above).   At this stage, some teams try to improve their efficiency first instead of focusing on making their daily Scrums effective. As a result, those teams may end up in the “Low Effectiveness – High Efficiency” quadrant of the table.   I would strongly caution against making a move to this quadrant.  There is no point in going through the daily Scrum motions just to finish within 15 minutes (as if it were some kind of an inviolable rule).  As the management guru, late Peter Drucker once said, “There is nothing as useless as doing something efficiently that need not be done at all.”   If it’s ineffective, you might as well not do the Scrum meeting at all.

For most teams, it is difficult to make a jump from the “Low Effectiveness-Low Efficiency” quadrant to “High Effectiveness-High Efficiency” quadrant overnight, or even within few days. This is especially true when the team has no onsite agile coach available to teach them how to do it, observe their daily Scrums onsite and give them immediate feedback for at least a few days early in a sprint.

I recommend that a new Scrum team should first learn and practice how to conduct the daily Scrum meetings effectively before worrying too much about efficiency. Initially, the team may find it difficult to complete the meetings within the “15 minutes” guideline.  A general rule of thumb is that a Scrum team with “n” members will take about “2n+5” minutes for a daily Scrum meeting if the team is well prepared for it (later I will explain the rationale behind the rule).  As an example, a small team with 5 members will take 15 minutes for daily Scrums, while a larger team of 9 members will take about 23 minutes.   Of course, if your project needs 20 people, a single Scrum team of 20 people will not be an effective team at all. You need to break it up into 2 to 4 small teams. That leads me to another general rule of thumb to remember:  a Scrum team should have 7 ± 2 members (i.e., 5 to 9 members).

In my next post I offer some concrete steps a team can take to make their daily Scrums more effective and efficient.

At the end of Part 5, I will make available a single file version (as a PDF document) of this 5-part blog series.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

This entry was posted in Agile Benefits, Agile Management, Agile Teams, Agile Velocity, Lean Software Development, Scrum Development, Scrum Methodology, Scrum Software, Scrum Tools. Bookmark the permalink.

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