Effective Daily Meetings

This entry is the first in a series  drawing upon some of the practical experience of BigVisible coaches in the field. In support of consultants, individual coaches may bring forward questions and challenges they face. We have edited and distilled one or more conversations on a topic into a format outlining a specific challenge, concrete recommendations, and lessons learned from the discussion. We hope you enjoy, and would welcome feedback on this particular challenge, as well as requests for future topics.

Objective:

The Daily Scrum (or daily standup meeting) is a critical meeting for teams to get together and do their daily planning and tracking of work. This meeting is a checkpoint that the team is working together to achieve the goals of each Sprint.  They do this by determining their current progress and identifying anything that is impeding the ability to achieve those goals.

Challenge:

However, it is a challenge to many teams to do this in a shorter meeting.  Scrum recommends that this meeting is no longer than 15 minutes.  Some teams focus on meeting the time but don’t come out of the meeting with a joint understanding of the team’s plan for the day.  Other teams find the meeting valuable but taking much longer to discuss, sometimes taking up to an hour each day for the meeting.  Eventually, the team will start to complain that “Scrum has too many meetings” and is keeping them from accomplishing the work in the Sprint.  We don’t want the Daily Scrum to become THE impediment!  

As a coach, I started to see this trend happening with a couple of teams.  I worked with them to appreciate the impact of longer meetings, but also where they could make improvements.  Following are the results of that discussion and where the teams are working to make their daily meetings more effective.

Solution:

Think about this: If you are having 1 hour daily meetings, this adds up to 10 hours for a Sprint for every team member.  If you have 10 people on your team, this adds up to 100 hours of effort to have these meetings.   However, if these meetings can be effective and stick to around 15 minutes, you cut the time by 75%.  As a result, you gain back 75 hours of team effort, or 7.5 hours for each team member.  This is a day’s worth of work!  That is a significant time savings especially given how valuable time is in a 2 week iteration. As a ScrumMaster, provide guidelines to the team to help them achieve the ability to meet for less time while still achieving the purpose of having the Daily Scrum:

Key Lessons:

  1. Update the status of tasks and hours prior to the meeting. This will ensure we have the latest snapshot of where the team is at and time won’t be spent “updating the board”.
  2. Be prepared to talk about what has changed since prior meeting. Think about what information should be shared that is valuable for the team. This will probably not be the specific details of everything you have done.  Only information that others need to hear or where you need help from the team.
  3. Limit your talking by focusing on providing facts and keep discussions brief. Point is to hear from everyone.  This is especially true for the ScrumMaster and anybody else that doesn’t have work for the Sprint.  The purpose of this meeting is for the team to discuss.
  4. Don’t troubleshoot during standup. Focus discussion on progress and decisions that have already been made. Take conversations offline to make new decisions with only those that can provide value in those discussions.
  5. Keep less tasks in progress. Only have things in progress that are truly being worked on. If you aren’t working on any of the tasks, they are considered blocked if you started. Otherwise, they should be not started until other tasks have been completed. Less tasks means less to discuss.
  6. Consolidate small tasks. We don’t need to have a breakdown of tasks that are only an hour or shorter. Think about having just a couple of tasks to talk about every meeting. Should be in 3 – 6 hour range as a guideline.
  7. Break down large tasks to see progress. Hard to see progress if tasks has many hours, break them down but not too much (see #6).
  8. Keep focused during the meeting. Don’t spend time multitasking  (side discussions, checking phone or email, etc). Listen to others and be prepared to participate.
  9. Consider the size of your team. The more people, the less time you have to talk.  Perhaps this isn’t just a challenge for this meeting, but the team is probably challenged in being able to effectively communication and collaborate with that many people.  Consider breaking the teams down, even if they share a common backlog.
  10. Don’t wait for the meeting to talk with other team members. Remember that this meeting is only a checkpoint and shouldn’t be the only place to talk about things as a team.  If there is a lot of discussion in this meeting, chances are that there isn’t enough discussion outside the meeting.