5 Ways ScrumMasters Can Enhance Daily Standups

Daily standup meetings can turn into a perfunctory chore, with everyone simply going through the motions. It’s the ScrumMaster’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen and the meetings remain useful for everyone. With these five ideas, the ScrumMaster can actively help daily scrums be effective and encourage communication, transparency, and efficient delivery of value.

Daily scrum meetings are primarily for development teams to sync up, discuss progress, and plan their work for the next twenty-four-hour period. A ScrumMaster typically serves as a facilitator for daily scrums, and other stakeholders can listen in too.

Teams are free to decide how they wish to utilize these fifteen-minute meetings, but this brings additional onus on the ScrumMaster to ensure that the meeting still results in two critical outcomes:

  • The team is focusing on the crucial aspects of progress, including how to remove impediments, and is able to put a realistic plan for the day in place
  • The product owner and stakeholders are able to gain vital information on progress toward giving customers more value and producing releasable code

Here are five ways the ScrumMaster can better facilitate daily scrums to achieve these outcomes and encourage communication, transparency, and efficient delivery of value.

1. Tightly control work in progress

Scenario: A developer in the daily scrum meeting says she is planning to work on a new story and doesn’t see any immediate impediments. The ScrumMaster asks whether the story she was working on yesterday is finished, and the developer reveals that the story has been put on hold due to a technical architecture issue that an architect must look into, so she is planning to work on something else.

It’s a good thing the ScrumMaster asked questions to unearth that a story is on hold and there are impediments that have not been discussed or addressed. Now, the ScrumMaster may suggest that he and the developer meet immediately with an architect to expedite removal of the blocker so the highest-priority work can continue.

Doing so controls work in progress (WIP) by focusing on completing work that has been started before beginning something new. This also reminds the team to keep track of how many stories are being worked on at a time and keeping WIP under a certain limit agreed to by the team.

2. Encourage collaboration on daily activities 

Scenario: A tester in the daily scrum meeting says he will continue testing the story picked up yesterday and there are no impediments. The ScrumMaster asks if this testing may be completed before the end of the day and, if so, what he will be doing next. The tester realizes he forgot to mention that he will likely pick up a new story to test sometime after lunch, but he hasn’t discussed this with the developer yet.

The ScrumMaster made sure that critical collaboration is happening when transitioning from one story to the next. The benefit is that because the entire team knows what is happening, anybody who has any knowledge about this new story can provide information.

It’s essential that the ScrumMaster makes sure development and testing are collaborating every day and discussing stories as they are being implemented and tested. 

3. Identify all blockers

Scenario: The database administrator says she finished one story yesterday and picked up another that she plans to continue today, and that there are no impediments. But the ScrumMaster remembers that there were some recent email exchanges between this database administrator and the client SMEs seeking clarifications on certain points on this story, so the ScrumMaster asks whether these issues have been resolved. The database administrator acknowledges that there is more to clarify for this story, and there are actually blockers that the ScrumMaster or someone else can help with.

It’s important for the ScrumMaster to track all unresolved issues and make sure the team openly discusses them so anyone with the ability can help unblock them quickly.

The benefit that this facilitation brings is that the team becomes more attentive to outstanding issues and remembers to leverage the ScrumMaster for help in unblocking issues.

4. Help the team prioritize issues

Scenario: A team is working on production issues and new feature development, causing them to have to allocate their work in both of these areas. The ScrumMaster asks questions about the high-priority production issues: Are they being adequately prioritized? Are they evenly distributed throughout the team, or at least properly planned to accommodate everyone? And will they impact the completion of planned new features? The team realizes it won’t get all of the new features completed, so they discuss allocation with the product owner to get her guidance.

The ScrumMaster should help the team continually set expectations with the business side and better negotiate scope for development in upcoming sprints. This way, the business side always knows where things stand and is never surprised at the end of a sprint.

5. Support alternative daily scrum formats

Scenario: Instead of using the standard daily scrum format of answering three questions—What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What is blocking progress?—the team decides to discuss each story one at a time, with those directly involved speaking. Unfortunately, this causes meetings to take longer than expected.

During the next retrospective, the ScrumMaster suggests the team look at ways of keeping their daily scrum to fifteen minutes. The ScrumMaster also starts keeping an eye on the clock during daily scrums, helping the team learn how to get their updates communicated effectively.

Because this is the team’s meeting and they should self-organize to decide what they want, the ScrumMaster should support alternative daily scrum formats if that’s what the team thinks will make sense for them. But it’s still top priority that the ScrumMaster makes sure the goals of the standup are met as well.

Daily standup meetings can turn into a perfunctory chore, with everyone simply going through the motions. It’s the ScrumMaster’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen and the meetings remain useful for everyone. With these five ideas, the ScrumMaster can actively help daily scrums be effective and achieve their intended purpose.

User Comments

Rich Stewart's picture

With my large global teams with more than 10 devs + QAs, I successfully use the alternative daily Scrum format of walking through each of the stories in less than 15 minutes. This serves to elevate the discussion to the level of stories that deliver value, as opposed to tasks that only contribute to delivering value. My Scrum teams all use kanban boards to visualize work and when we walk through the stories we walk through the board from right to left with a focus on what it will take to get any story to acceptance. Our focus is also on getting stories that are further along on the board to acceptance rather than having the team focus on too many items at once which we control in part through work in progress (WIP) limits.

November 1, 2018 - 4:43pm
Ajeet Singh's picture

Really nice to learn that you are able to finish the scrum within 15 minutes with every story being discussed by the team. I have quite often seen teams struggling with this approach to time box it – probably you could share some tips.

On your last point, agree that we can pick up relatively easy stories to expedite them to done status while working on the WIP items in between or waiting for blockers to be removed.

November 2, 2018 - 9:52am

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