I am working closely with some distributed Teams using the Scrum Framework and seeing some challenges with the daily Scrum Meeting.
They are probably typical challenges for all new Scrum teams and include some habits developed over years of using other processes. These habits are harder to break because the teams are distributed and reliant on phones or Skype to communicate.
The key person to help the team to break these habits is the Scrum Master. It is the Scrum Master who should be encouraging the team to work together and coaching them to have an effective meeting. Ironically, it may be the Scrum Master who is leading in the bad habit.
See if you recognize any of the following habits in your Scrum Master or Agile teams:
The Jay Leno type Scrum Master is interviewing everyone on the team rather than letting them provide their own updates.
The traffic cop directs the order and flow of the meeting and tells each person when to speak. This may create short-term efficiencies, it doesn’t lead to self-organizing behavior.
Deep Dive Dan
Deep Dive Dan sits by while the team goes into deep dive or problem-solving mode. Or, he actually leads the team into a deep dive during the daily Scrum.
Similar to the traffic cop, the General directs the troops and tells everyone what to work on. They provide a service that teams come to depend on, unfortunately. Why should the team think when we can simply follow orders?
Offering advice is what Abby does well and poor Scrum Masters will often offer unsolicited advice to the team. Offering unsolicited advice says, “hey, I don’t think you know what you are doing”.
It’s easy to run over the 15-minute time box for this meeting, especially if we have deep dives, directing, and advice giving. It’s simple to stay within the 15-minute box if you avoid those things. Enough said.
The Scrum Master should make sure the meeting is effective. Part of that is paying attention to the distractions during the meeting like having a Darth Vader on the call or significant background noise that makes it hard to hear. I was on a call recently that I swear was coming from a high school cafeteria it was so loud.
What is the point of the Daily Scrum anyway? It is a meeting for the Dev Team to plan and coordinate. Don’t believe me? These are the key points, directly from the Scrum Guide which is the definitive source of information about Scrum:
The daily Scrum is for the Dev Team to:
- Synch their efforts and create a plan for the next 24 hours
- Inspect and Adapt the work completed toward the sprint goal
- Identify impediments
- Improve communications between team members
- Promote quick decision making
- Eliminate other meetings
Notice that it is not about gathering status, or for reporting to others outside the meeting. It is also not about making yourself an indispensable part of the team.
Scrum Masters often struggle with this, especially those that are transitioning from other roles like project managers. It is tough work to break old habits, but you have to let go of the desire to control the team. I know, I’ve been there myself!
So here is my coaching for Scrum Masters on what to do:
- Do and Say Less. A lot Less. Even less than you think you should.
- If you ignore the previous item, when you do talk, try to focus on the group process and how the team is working together, and not on the content of what the team is working on. Make observations and ask questions to gently guide the team in the process.
- Stick to the script. The 3 question approach for the standup works great. Help the team use it to stay focused and keep the meeting on track
- When tempted to offer unsolicited advice, use Humble Inquiry instead.
- Read my book: Agile Project Management; A Nuts and Bolts Guide to Success
- Even better, read Lyssa Adkins book, it is terrific: Coaching Agile Teams
The goal is for the team to self-organize, and thrive and grow without relying on the Scrum Master or any other team member. So anything you can do as a Scrum Master to reduce the team’s dependency on you is a step in the right direction.
What are your thoughts – how would you support your Scrum Masters or teams?
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