Written by Caz Houghton
Apr 28, 2017

Daily Scrum Guidelines

Some simple and fun guidelines to help you get the most out of your team’s scrum meetings.

Scrums are punchy yet planned

Like many other design and development agencies, here at Brightec we hold a daily scrum (aka daily standup). It has become a crucial part of team’s daily workflow.

Although they appear short, punchy and simple; it takes a lot of planning & constant tweaking to get the most out of them.

Scrum hurdles

Our team are usually receptive to new ideas. But it can still be a hurdle (particularly I’d imagine for bigger teams) to overcome the association people (incorrectly) make between a daily scrum and a progress meeting or ‘status update’. 

We're not hierarchical at Brightec, so we didn't have to find ways to reassure the team that it wasn’t just a time for managers to check up on them.

However, we did struggle to find a way to get others to take some ‘leadership’ and decide what order we would speak in. I hated being the instigator of that, it felt like the line between scrum master and manager (which I'm definitely not!) was getting too muddy. 

So we've created some guidelines for the daily scrum:

Daily Scrum guidelines

The main things:

  1. The daily scrum should be a fun way for everyone to share relevant information.
  2. We 'meet' at 9.50am every Tuesday - Friday (on Mondays we have a team breakfast meeting instead).

The scrum is a team update, we use it to:

  • Make others aware there is something they could do to help us
  • See if we can pick up on another person needing us to follow up with outside of the scrum to improve the progress on a project

For example, 'I need to have a catch up with Josh and Alistair about ..'. This makes all the relevant people aware (and between the team) it’s our responsibility to organise that without disrupting the meeting.

A few general guidelines we can experiment with:

  • We all take turns to outline what tasks we intend to work on that day
  • We may also mention anything else we feel relevant, such as completing a big task the day before or thinking about a meeting you have tomorrow
  • It makes a daily scrum more beneficial if we say that we didn't get anything done the day before 
  • It makes us all aware that we should pick this up after the scrum to help and discuss what needs to be done to make progress

Who speaks next?

We tend to follow the format of the remote people going first (in alphabetical order) and those in the office using a dice to pass 'turns' to whoever they chose to speak next.

  • Maybe the last remote person could nominate someone in the office
  • Maybe you were working with someone yesterday so they're a good person to throw the dice to next
  • Maybe you've just said you need to catch up with someone about a task and think it’s logical for them to have the dice after you

Fun ways to scrum

A great guide to the daily scrum can be found in Mike Cohn's excellent book - Surviving the Daily Scrum

The book gave me some great ideas that we'll try out with Brightec to keep our scrum fresh and effective:

Use a quiz to see who’s really listening - Cohn used a $5 gift card as a prize for whoever could answer a random question from the scrum. For example, "Who said they need to meet with Nick after the meeting?'

The idea is to help get the team into the habit of focusing on the rest of the team’s update.

Pass the weight - Some teams pass a weight around, light enough to hold for a short time but heavy enough that you don't want to talk for too long! 

A prize for whoever is most often first to the scrum - Cohn cited a case study in which a whole team was promised lunch if every member was on time for the length of a sprint. It had great results in terms of punctuality, team bonding, and self-organisation as everyone took responsibility to ensure that no one was late.

A soundtrack - How about a Scrum soundtrack? Imagine a sad noise when someone starts to talk about something outside of the scrum guidelines or a celebration sound when someone updates the team they made great progress on a task. 

How long did that take?

Our daily scrums can be awkward at the end. The conversation can fizzle out and we'll stand around not sure if it has ended or whether to hang up the video call.

Another recommended idea is to announce how long the daily scrum took. Cohn believes that makes people feel more positive knowing how little time out of their day it was.

Another 15...

Another idea I really liked from Mike Cohn's 'Surviving the Daily Scrum' is 'An extra 15 minutes'. Our daily scrum is booked for 10 minutes at the moment but some teams block out an extra 15 minutes at the end which is for people to follow up discussions after the scrum and people aren't dashing off to another meeting etc.

Any ideas?

When we first started having a daily scrum I struggled with finding things to tell the team I was going to do. The KEY thing I have learned is that it doesn't matter what I'm doing, it's what the team is doing (or intend to do) and finding what I can do to enable them to do so. 

Anyone else out there picked up any useful lessons from your daily scrums? Let us know!

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