Keeping Daily Scrum focused…

Cryptic daily stand up
Cryptic daily stand up

The Daily Scrum is one ceremony that the teams following Scrum adopt quickly. There are some hiccups initially, which are sorted out, often with inputs from the coach/guide. The ceremony is on time and at fixed time, occurs even if Scrum Master is not present, team members unable to attend do call in or provide an email update. Good going!

Now slowly things change and either the updates become cryptic or verbose. After observing many teams go through this, what comes to my mind is a famous rhetorical question on delays in projects:

Q: How does a project get delayed by a month?

A: One day at a time.

Now why am I quoting this here? Because something similar happens. The updates go towards cryptic or verbose as one person goes in that direction and that is not observed/ corrected. The Scrum Master has a key role in ensuring that the scrum process is followed, he has to be alert to this.

Here is a typical scenario:

Mohan is working on a task TKS-210 and has had a bit of a struggle with it. His update in the daily scrum is:

I was working on TKSK-210, will continue, no impediments. (Sigh.)

This is accepted, i.e., no one asks any questions, maybe the team members understand the status.

The next day update too is similar. Now it is likely that couple more team members shift to this style of update. There is an innate, unconscious tendency in humans to mimic, imitate or follow other people, which surfaces time to time. Very soon all updates become similar.

The ideal update would include some information on –
How much work is done?
When the work is expected to complete?
If completing soon, the team member will certainly state what task he is planning to pick up next.

Is it quite possible that the thinking on “what next” will not happen in the minds, and that is not good. There is a possibility that “I will continue…” kind of update will result in the person continue on task and not take up another, even if it were possible, as words said aloud influence thoughts/thinking.

So the Scrum Master and the team has to be alert to how the updates are provided. They can always ask questions to elicit relevant information.

One practice that will help – is the updating of remaining hours on the task. This if done regularly, will surface in the Daily Scrum and result in update being more specific. If the remaining hours on a task is a fraction of the day, it prompts the team member to the “what next” thinking, and share the same.

Do you have any similar experiences? Would like to hear them as well as your views.

What do you think?

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