Holding a productive Scrum Meeting

Author: Mike Chatwin
I have heard horror stories from colleagues of daily scrum meetings that run over an hour…
STOP IT IMMEDIATELY! A daily meeting running this long becomes a roadblock to several of the basic principles of the Agile Manifesto (www.agilemanifesto.org):

    – Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
    – Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
    – Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

How can these principles be met, if the team is locked up for an hour EVERY DAY? It is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to assist the team in efficient delivery of product.  Start with the daily Scrum!
Cardinal Rules of an Effective Daily Scrum:
– The Scrum should start on time
– The Scrum should take NO MORE than 15 minutes.
– The Scrum is for each team member to answer “The Three Questions”

What did you accomplish yesterday

What will you accomplish today?

What issues are keeping you from delivering on your commitments?

– The Scrum is NOT to discuss technical details, administrative stuff or solutions. (Those are more efficiently handled off-line).
Remember, an effective Scrum Meeting is a SHORT meeting!  Minute details and follow-ups can be done without tying up the entire team!
Also, it is a good idea to conduct this meeting with everyone standing.  This encourages the team members to keep it brief!

Why are the “Three Questions” so important to a Scrum Meeting?

A Scrum Meeting is the opportunity for each team member to answer the “Three Questions” of Scrum:

What did you accomplish yesterday

What will you accomplish today?

What issues are keeping you from delivering on your commitments?

The three questions and the Scrum meeting are only partially about communicating status.  A good Scrum Master will already have a good idea of the status of his backlog.

The ceremony of the three questions is about making a commitment.

The team member is reporting what was accomplished the day before… then COMMITTING to the day’s activities. And declaring risks to meeting that commitment.  This public commitment establishes ownership over that particular user story.
Again, the Scrum Master should analyze progress on stories.  If a team member is spending an unexpected amount of time on a story, determine why.
It is actually MOST efficient to make this a ceremony.  ASK each team member the questions, and record their answers.  This cuts down on rambling.  Lengthy discussions should be deferred until after the scrum meeting.
When the meeting is over, the Scrum Master is responsible for:
– Removing barriers to the completion of stories.
– Analyzing progress.   If a team member has been working on the same issue for several days, investigate.

Was the size of the story underestimated?

Is there an impediment that the team member is trying to resolve alone?

– Follow up on any technical discussions (they were deferred until AFTER the Scrum Meeting.  Make sure they aren’t forgotten completely).
Scrum Masters, be mindful of the time spent in your Scrum meetings.  If they are consistently longer than 15 minutes, analyze and improve (a basic tenant of Agile!)   Don’t ACCEPT a long Scrum meeting!   Keep it under 15 minutes!
Author: Mike Chatwin

Posted in PMO