In my last post I discussed the advantages of the Daily Scrum format and introduced a Daily_Journal template (click here to get a copy) that can be used to facilitate concise and effective reporting, get help from team members, and continuously improve sprints. Today I’ll discuss a bit more about the template and 5 ways an agile project management tool supplements this template to get teams into the High-Effectiveness, High-Efficiency quadrant (see chart below) for their standups.
One important side benefit of using this Daily_Journal template is that it automatically creates a journal of your daily work (hence its name) for all days in a sprint without any additional effort. It’s a highly effective planning tool, as well as an efficient reporting tool for daily Scrum meetings. Looking at the patterns of DONE | NOT DONE | UNPLANNED status fields at the end of a sprint, each member can derive interesting insight into their own effectiveness and figure out ways to improve during the following sprints. This is a key aspect of the Sprint Retrospective.
At this stage, people often ask me why we report the work this way, or why we use the Daily_Journal template: “Isn’t all that information available in an agile project management tool like VersionOne?” or “Wouldn’t this be too much overhead?” So let me answer:
- Planning the work for the day (or until the next daily Scrum) requires serious thinking. Each member must consider all tasks assigned to him/her in a sprint backlog, what has been done so far in a sprint, what are the most important tasks to do that will support the team, any task dependencies, information available to work on the tasks, and the amount of time available. This needs about 10 minutes of serious thinking using an agile tool, and cannot/should not be done at the meeting itself (neither effective nor efficient).
- Stories and tasks in an agile tool do not have any due dates or date field. Even if a date was defined as a custom field for tasks, the task may be done over several days (e.g., a 12-hour design task may be spread over 3 work days and perhaps 5 calendar days), so the level of granularity in the Daily_Journal is not available in agile tools.
- Even if you can point out specific tasks in an agile tool or Kanban Taskboard which you plan to do until the next daily Scrum… unless some record is kept of that plan, how are you going to remember that plan, let alone report against that specific plan, during the next Daily Scrum? The Daily_Journal is precisely the simple tool that allows you to achieve that goal effectively and efficiently.
- Once this 10 minutes of serious thinking and planning work is done by each team member on a daily basis (which no tool can do), entering 2 to 3 tasks in the Daily_Journal takes only 3 or 4 minutes. Marking the status field of the tasks planned for the previous day (also available in Daily_Journal as a drop-down menu) takes less than 1 minute. So the “overhead” is only 5 minutes per day.
- If you are able to customize your agile tool to accomplish the work of the Daily_Journal tool — perhaps with custom reports, custom analytics or custom coding against its APIs — it will only save you 5 minutes per day. The time needed for real thinking and planning of daily work cannot be automated with any tool.
Now that you understand the High-Effectiveness, High-Efficiency quadrant and how to get into it, I will wrap up this blog series in my final post with some additional tips to help ScrumMasters improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their Daily Scrums.