When you ask someone “what’s Scrum?”, probably 9 times out of 10 they’ll start telling you about the Daily Scrum meeting. Maybe they call it the “standup” or the “daily” or the “daily standup” but they’re talking about that meeting that you’re supposed to have every day if you’re doing Scrum. Oh…and they almost invariably say that that meeting is “boring” or “pointless” or “boring and pointless”.
When a team tells me that their Daily Scrum is boring it almost always means that there’s something amiss on that team. The Daily Scrum shouldn’t be boring. Now it’s probably not going to be a non-stop thrill ride but you should at least think it was worth your while.
Lots of teams show up and take turns droning on about what they (supposedly) did yesterday, what they’re (supposedly) going to do today, and whether they have any impediments. Everyone says they were heroic yesterday, that they’re going to be unbelievably heroic today, and that there aren’t any impediments. And the only person who’s paying any attention to what’s being said is the person who’s talking and then maybe (if you’re lucky) the scrum master. But pretty much everyone else is checked out and in a temporary coma while they’re not talking.
Sound familiar? Well, here are 5 reasons why your Daily Scrum is boring.
#1. You’ve forgotten why you’re there.
The purpose of the Daily Scrum is not to stand in a circle and stare at the floor for 15 minutes. You’re there to come together as a team and understand what the team is doing in order to deliver done, working software at (or before) the end of the Sprint. It’s the team’s daily opportunity to inspect & adapt. Where have we been? What have we learned? Is our plan for achieving our sprint goal still relevant? Is there anything we need to change as a team in order to achieve the goals for the sprint? Is there anything going on that is blocking or slowing our progress towards that goal? At the end of meeting, everyone will have an idea of what the status is and what the plan for the next 24 hours is.
#2. Running long. Strolling slowly.
Another prime reason why the Daily Scrum is boring is that there’s zero sense of urgency. This meeting should be done in FIFTEEN (15) MINUTES OR LESS! If your team can figure out its plan in only 8 minutes, then the meeting should be over in 8 minutes. Don’t take any longer than you absolutely need. Get in, get out, and get back to work.
As you can imagine, if you’re going to try to achieve something in 15 minutes or less then this meeting is going to have to cruise. No dilly dallying. Quick. Move move move. Get it done. Next. If you identify a problem that needs to be solved, chances are high that you’re going to say “ok…let’s talk about that after the Daily Scrum.” Unless that problem has a super-fast solution, take a note and move on.
So remember: if your meeting is taking longer than 15 minutes, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!
#3. You’re Reporting Progress to the Scrum Master
Are you doing this? Whenever you’re talking or whenever someone else is talking, they’re talking to the Scrum Master. You’re basically just reporting your progress to the Scrum Master and you’re treating him/her like a project manager. Yah. Don’t do that. The Scrum Master is NOT the project manager. The Scrum Master also shouldn’t be any more or less interested in what you did or are going to do than anyone else on the team because the Daily Scrum is not for the benefit of the Scrum Master.
Did that just blow your mind? (Just say ‘yes’…it makes me feel important and profound.) Remember that the purpose of the Daily Scrum is for the team to get an understanding of what’s going on and what’s planned. The Scrum Master is not a project manager and doesn’t direct what’s going on on the team. The Scrum Master is there to help the team to be productive and is not there to drive results. So if you’re reporting what you did to the Scrum Master rather than addressing the rest of your team, you might want do do something about that. If you’re the Scrum Master and your team is doing this to you, try breaking eye contact with the speaker or maybe even try having someone else run the meeting.
#4. Everyone Works on their Own Product Backlog Item (PBI)
Another common reason that teams are bored in the Daily Scrum is that — well — nothing that anyone else is doing has any relevance to them. Basically, you start the sprint, everyone picks a PBI to do, and then works on that PBI for the entire sprint. You don’t care about what anyone else is doing because there’s no reason to care. There’s no dependency. There’s pretty much no expectation that you need to integrate (until 3 seconds before the end of the Sprint) and you’re in your own little world.
Ask yourself this: if you work this way, are you really on a team or is your team just a bunch of people who sits near each other and mumbles at each other once per day while pretending to politely not-entirely-ignore what they’re saying? Yah. You’re not really a team. You’re probably organizing your work strangely. I’ll bet that your Scrum Board probably looks something like this one, too.
That Scrum Board says to me that your team is working on A LOT of stuff at the same time and that almost nothing is done. You’ve got a tiny handful of tasks done but so far not a single PBI has been completed. If the sprint ends today, you haven’t delivered anything yet. If the sprint ends in a couple of days, you’re in extreme danger of not delivering anything.
Now, take a look at that Scrum Board below. There’s a lot less work in progress. If you and your team choose to swarm on a just one or two PBIs at a time and drive them to done rather than working on everything at the same time, you’ll be able to get PBIs delivered to Done throughout the sprint rather than in one giant WHOOSH! at the end of the sprint. If you work this way, it means that you’re working together as a team and, in this case, you’ll definitely care what other people are saying and thinking and planning at the Daily Scrum. No more boredom. And a fantastic side effect is that even if the rest of the sprint was a disaster, at least at this point your team has delivered at least one complete PBI.
5. The “3 Questions” Format Stinks
Probably the biggest reason that the Daily Scrum is boring and that you don’t care what anyone else is saying is because the “3 questions” format STINKS! The “3 Questions” format Daily Scrum consists of going around the room and having everyone answer 3 questions: 1) What did you do yesterday? 2) What are you doing to do today? 3) Any impediments? When “3 questions” is resulting in boring Daily Scrums, it’s often because the stuff that people say has practically nothing to do with the plan that you all came up with in the Sprint Planning Meeting. If you’re going to come up with a plan (aka. the Sprint Backlog) that consists of the PBIs you’re forecasting to deliver plus the known list of items that need to be completed (aka. the Tasks), then it only makes sense that when you have your Daily Scrum and talk about what your plan is for the next 24 hours that what you say should have some relevance to the original plan. If what you’re saying doesn’t have anything to do with the plan, then 1) either the plan is wrong or 2) you’re wasting your time planning because you’re not using the plan.
Usually, the plan you came up with in the Sprint Planning meeting is pretty decent and what’s happening in the Daily Scrum is that you’re simply ignoring the plan or forgetting to notice the plan existed. Not only does this tend to cause boredom but it also means that the team probably isn’t focused on delivering the PBIs to ‘Done’.
An alternative to “3 Questions” is a technique called “Walking The Board”. When you use the “Walking The Board” technique in your Daily Scrum, you review each PBI on the Scrum Board and ask the team “Did anyone work on PBI X?” For everyone who says “yes”, ask them which Tasks they worked on for that PBI. If they did work some work on a Task that doesn’t exist on the board, create a new Task immediately and put it on the board. Keep going through each PBI until you’re done. This will ensure that the plan is relevant and accurate and that everyone’s clear about what has happened in the last 24 hours. Then move on to asking what Tasks need to be worked on today and whether there are any impediments related to any tasks on the board.
Your Daily Scrum doesn’t have to be boring but if it’s boring, try re-focusing on the purpose of the meeting and re-focusing on your team goal of creating done, working software.
— Need help making your Daily Scrum meetings relevant and less boring? Want help creating solid plans in your Sprint Planning Meetings? We can help. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.