Acceptable Interruptions – Toward a better Daily Scrum

As many of you know, Scrum has a Daily Scrum or stand-up, where the team syncs up quickly (in 15 minutes).

For some reason (or perhaps a variety of reasons), many teams either don’t get the value or take too long, or both. So, to make your Daily Scrum better, consider a couple of questions.

1. What is the purpose of the Daily Scrum or stand-up?

It is typically not to solve world hunger, nor to discuss vacation plans. A reasonable purpose might be “to discuss those things essential to helping the team finish a successful sprint or iteration.” Agree on the purpose within the team. I now phrase it as, “Give the team some essential information to enable them then to self-organize, self-manage and self-direct themselves to greater success in the Sprint.”

2. How big is the team?

Lots of info suggests the team size should be seven plus/minus two. Maybe your team needs to break into two teams.

3. How do we keep it shorter?

The whole team can’t concentrate for a long time — maybe 15 minutes. So we try to say the essential stuff (using a time box and the 80-20 rule) in 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes.

All team members might pay attention for that long. It is a Daily Scrum, right?

4. How do we keep it to 15 minutes?

One suggestion: Fewer interruptions, and only short ones. When a person is answering the three questions for himself or herself, we need to interrupt them less (usually).

5. What are acceptable interruptions?

Make a team norm about this. My proposal is this:

  1. None? (Probably good to suggest, but not easy to do. A few interrupts are actually useful.)
  2. “I did not hear or understand what you said…”
  3. “Let’s talk about X right after this huddle?”
  4. “Can I help you? Do you need help with that?”
  5. “Is X an impediment?”
  6. If the person did not give a full update…
    • “yesterday?”
    • “today?”
    • “impediments?”
  7. If the ‘interruption’ is not longer than 10 seconds. (And obviously, the person speaking also feels the team needs the information.)

6. Do you start on time?

Don’t waste the whole team’s time for one person’s delay. If you delay, you are telling the late person it is OK for him or her to be late. Always start on time.

7. Talk to the Sprint Backlog board and cards, or something that represents the whole iteration’s worth of work.

This can take many forms. Have easy reference numbers so everyone can follow along. Point to things (cards) in the room while speaking (people are engaged more if you use visuals like moving your body to point to a card).

8. Call the Daily Scrum “done” and let most people get back to “real work.”

Yes, Virginia, the Daily Scrum is also real work, and it takes effort. But, sometimes it helps to just say, “It’s over, back to the real work.”

9. Who are the attendees?

Of course you want the pigs (those people who are committed to delivering on that Sprint’s work), and of course that includes the Product Owner (the key person representing the business side).

One common problem is “talking chickens” during the Daily Scrum. We sometimes do want to hear from them (the “only involved” can still be very valuable), but, let’s talk with them after the stand-up. One related problem is that chickens often don’t attend the Daily Scrum enough to know the team norms about how the Daily Scrum will work. So explain a little and let them talk after the Daily Scrum (when many team members will have had a chance to escape).

Good luck with better huddles, and tell us your ideas.

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2 thoughts on “Acceptable Interruptions – Toward a better Daily Scrum

  1. Joe Little

    Hi zang,

    Thanks.

    Not sure I like the “article rewrite” link in your post. If you think the link is relevant to other readers, please explain why in your post.

    Thanks, Joe

    Reply

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