Daily Scrum: Is it a Waste of Time?
by Mark Levison
Daily Scrum? It’s a waste of time and interrupts my work.
Daily Scrum is just a chance for the Scrum Master to show up and micromanage.
Daily Scrum is for reporting status, but I could do that in an email.
Do any of these complaints sound familiar?
These days, it’s become rather trendy to deride and joke about only pointless Daily Scrum (also known as Daily Standup or Daily Meeting), such as with this tweet and receiving emails like the one below:
Clearly a lot of people don’t find their Daily Scrum helpful and often find it frustrating to the point where they use software to try and automate an activity that should be primarily about people, believing this to be a real improvement. I’m all for automating things that need automation, but let’s consider what that implies — that Daily Scrum is wasteful. An automation tool’s creators (like the one noted in the email above) want to save team members the time spent talking to each other, calling it an “improvement.”
If your Daily Scrum primarily features team members standing around droning on about bug ticket numbers — what they fixed yesterday and what they plan to fix today — then I agree, your Daily Scrum probably IS a waste of time.
Daily Scrum, at its heart, is about one thing: collaboration towards achieving the Team’s Sprint Goal.
In its section on Daily Scrum, the Scrum Guide says:
The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours. This optimizes team collaboration and performance by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum and forecasting upcoming Sprint work. The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity.
The Development Team uses the Daily Scrum to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and to inspect how progress is trending toward completing the work in the Sprint Backlog. The Daily Scrum optimizes the probability that the Development Team will meet the Sprint Goal. Every day, the Development Team should understand how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment by the end of the Sprint.
The structure of the meeting is set by the Development Team and can be conducted in different ways if it focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal. Some Development Teams will use questions, some will be more discussion based. Here is an example of what might be used:
- What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
- What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
- Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?
The Development Team or team members often meet immediately after the Daily Scrum for detailed discussions, or to adapt, or replan, the rest of the Sprint’s work.
Note the repetitive emphasis on both the Development Team and the concrete actions that have been taken, and will be taken, to reach its goal.
Not about how much progress was made.
Nothing about task updates or tickets.
Not having a manager micro-manage the Team.
Definitely not a recitation of ticket numbers to a crowd of people staring off into space.
It seems that for many people, Daily Scrum has become an activity where individuals talk at other members of the Team about what they are doing. It should be unsurprising that it’s unhelpful when there is nothing there for the Team to become engaged.
In my courses I tell people that Daily Scrum is intended to:
- Prepare the team for the day’s collaboration towards achieving Sprint Goal
- Help the team sense whether they will meet the Sprint Goal
- Find anything that is slowing the team down towards the Sprint Goal
None of these needs can be satisfied by an automated tool.
If you are using Daily Scrum to start conversations and spark collaboration, then you should find the activity impossible to complete over email — it needs to be held face-to-face because the necessary collaboration is only achieved effectively when your team is involved in a dialogue. (If your team is distributed, then video conference makes an adequate and necessary alternative.)
If you find your Team continues to complain that Daily Scrum is a waste of time (or a mere status meeting or an opportunity for micro-management), remind the Team of the meeting’s purpose, and then ask the whole team how they would like to re-organize the activity to achieve that. If the questions being asked don’t provide the focus, change the questions. If they feel that the standup has turned into a status reporting meeting, ask them how to make it about them. Since Daily Scrum is about the Team and not management, it shouldn’t turn into an opportunity for micro-management because we wouldn’t expect management to be there.
At its heart, Daily Scrum, and Scrum generally, should be about asking the Team to inspect their progress towards their goal for the Sprint. If you focus on this principle, you will find Daily Scrum is actually valuable and isn’t just a way of sweeping problems under the rug — or automating it using Slack or JIRA.
This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.