In my experience, the daily Scrum serves two purposes:
- for team members to make and follow up on commitments to one another, and
- for team members to raise and start resolving impediments.
Both these purposes are directed towards reaching the Sprint goal.
I started coaching a development team in an IT department this week. Most of the team is officially full-time on their project, but unlike the consulting teams I often work with, no one is ever really full-time on a project. There are production apps to support, people management issues, requests for technical help from other projects, non-project meetings, and a variety of other distractions.
Observing this team’s daily Scrums, I noticed that they talked a lot about what they did in the past 24 hours and what they would do in the next 24. Everyone seemed busy and could account for their time. But I had a hard time connecting their busyness to the work they’d committed to do in the Sprint.
So, I suggested a slight change to the three questions that I learned from Mishkin Berteig. Instead of answering the questions, “What did you do in the last 24 hours?” and “What will you do in the next 24?,” I had the team answer the questions, “What did you complete in the last 24 hours?” and “What will you complete in the next 24?” I recommended that they point at tasks and stories on the task board while answering the questions to keep them focused on the work for the Sprint.
There were some objections:
“But I’ll feel uncomfortable saying I’m not going to complete anything today…” To which I say, “Good. You should feel uncomfortable if you’re not helping the team follow through on its commitment for the Sprint.”
“But our tasks are too big to complete in a day…” “Many of them are. This will give you an incentive to make them smaller in the next Sprint, which will increase your visibility into the state of the work.”
Nonetheless, they agreed to try it, and I’m glad they did. The change in the daily Scrum with the new questions was striking. Conversation was more focused on their commitments. Since team members couldn’t use work from outside the project to show how busy they were, they were motivated to fight the distractions and find project tasks they could commit to. The few team members who are spread across multiple projects now can see clearly where the multi-tasking is hurting their commitments to this team.
If your daily Scrums seem unfocused, even though everyone has lots to talk about, consider changing the questions to change the team’s behavior. Just one word can make a big difference. Try asking each other:
- What did you complete since we last met?
- What will you complete before we meet again?
- What impediments are keeping you from completing something?