This article is part of a series on Scrum fundamentals, complete with infographics! Check out the rest of the series: What is a Sprint?, What is Scrum Planning?, What is a Sprint Review?, and What is a Sprint Retrospective?.
The shortest Scrum event is also one of the most talked about. The 15 minutes (maximum) of the daily meeting, Daily Scrum (or Daily Stand-Up) has been reviewed and dissected to exhaustion. One of my fellow instructors, Walter, gives his take on the debate in his How to Take Advantage of the Daily Standup and Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins article. But, before we can join the discussion, let’s define exactly what is the daily scrum?
The Scrum Daily Event
Let’s start with the meeting itself. To be successful, a Scrum team needs synchronization, fluid communication, focus, understanding of their progress towards the goal, and the space to make adjustments if necessary (this is the essence of agility). These agile team fundamentals can be accomplished in many ways, but meeting consistently (at least once a day) is a simple way to ensure that teamwork (and work) is happening… or to detect if it is not.
So, every day, for no more than 15 minutes, the developers (remember, in Scrum, the term Developer includes all the members on the team who don’t have the responsibility of Product Owner or Scrum Master) analyze their progress made during the Sprint and produce an “action plan” for the next day.
There has always been a lot of controversy over whether or not the PO and/or SM should participate in the Daily Scrum. In its latest edition, the Scrum Guide makes it clear that they should only attend if they are actively working as developers.
Like the other Scrum events, the Daily Scrum is held on a regular basis, at the same time, in the same place, and with the same format. This reduces complexity and variability by simplifying the focus to only that of the team’s actions.
What happens in the Daily Scrum?
The Scrum Guide provides this instruction, “Inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as needed.” There is no recommended format, list of questions to answer, or order of tasks to accomplish. Each team can do as it wants, as long as it fulfills the purpose of the event.
The famous, “What have I done? What am I going to do? What impediments do I have?” question-based format is no longer recommended by the creators of Scrum. If answering these questions works for the developers, great! But, if they don’t, adapt and change to what works better. This non-prescriptive approach also encourages team self-management.
The idea that the Daily Scrum is run by the Scrum Master has been discarded. The Daily has been reduced to 15 self-managed minutes to ensure that the team is on the right path and to define the actions needed to stay on it.
Let’s Talk… About What?
If the Daily Scrum takes 15 minutes a day (at most… think about that idea that Scrum implies “being together all day”), what does the team do during the remaining time? Work to deliver value to the customer. Which is exactly what should be discussed during the Daily Scrum.
During the remaining hours in the day, the team works to achieve the objective that was defined at the beginning of the Sprint. Within the adaptation of the process and the self-management of the team, changes can be introduced, but never one that puts the objective at risk.
Furthermore, quality is not sacrificed, diminished, or questioned. Saving on quality is bad business. When we skimp on quality, we are really just generating debt that will have to be repaid later. In addition, the longer a product or service defect exists or goes unnoticed, the greater the impact and repair expense, especially if they are already in the hands of the customers or users.
The Sprint is the moment of anticipation, of refining the pending work. “Refine” here means to find out, get more information, clarify, refocus, chop, experiment, and, finally, perform activities that facilitate future work. In Scrum, there isn’t an official “Refinement” meeting, but refining the backlog is a must. Just as the Daily Scrum is a way to inspect and adapt on a day-to-day basis, teams can find mechanisms that help them advance in the necessary refinement.
As the Sprint progresses, knowledge also advances, which may require refocusing the scope by clarifying and negotiating with the PO. As I noted in the Sprint Planning infographic, having a plan is essential, but so is the need for flexibility when we need to adapt.
Part of being able to create a good plan is knowing who is responsible for which tasks. What were previously known as Scrum roles are now accountabilities. Those on the Scrum team are accountable for creating the value that our clients and users expect, but also:
Let’s not forget that, although Scrum was born in the world of software, today it is a universally applicable framework, although it preserves names like these perhaps out of nostalgia and tradition. Let’s think of “developers” as the members of a multidisciplinary team with all the skills and knowledge necessary to carry out the work: designing a marketing campaign, executing a human resources process, designing a physical product, starting a restaurant… and also creating software?
This team will put all its commitment, responsibility, dedication, and good work into the task of meeting the Sprint Objective, maintaining the expected level of quality, managing the Sprint Backlog, and adapting the plan every day in the Daily.
The Product Owner (PO) has two main missions: anticipating needs and helping the team.
The first refers to the continuous process of refining and updating the backlog, that is, the way in which the definition of the product or service is reflected. This means being in permanent contact with stakeholders (interested parties with the capacity to influence, to a greater or lesser extent, what the team is developing), collecting and understanding their needs, organizing them properly, analyzing them with the team, ensuring their viability, converting them into easily digestible units, and, in general, what we can consider “efficiently managing the Product Backlog.”
On the other hand, developers may need clarification, have doubts, or ask for guidance. The absence of the PO is a common and unnecessary cause of blockages for the team.
Finally, whoever has the responsibility of acting as Scrum Master is left with the task of making all of this happen, maintaining the effectiveness of the team, promoting the elimination of impediments, training team members, and serving everyone as the servant-leader of the team.
All this happens in almost 97% of the time that the Daily leaves available each day.
Infographic: What is the Daily Scrum?
Download the full infographic use to use as a reference in your own Daily Scrums.
(And, don’t forget about our companion infographics – What is a Sprint?, What is Scrum Planning?, What is a Sprint Review?, and What is a Sprint Retrospective?.)
Beyond the Daily Scrum
Dig in to Scrum with our Agile Fundamentals course. Learn all the terminology, ceremonies, principles, techniques, and day-to-day application of Scrum. (And, earn your ICAgile ICP certification!)