Has Your Daily Scrum Become Stale?

stale-11642077Has the team’s daily stand-up lost a bit of freshness? How might you know?

See if you can detect any of the following indicators:

  • No one seems to be listening to anyone else
  • Someone is giving waaaaaay too much detail
  • People are just reporting status: “I’ve been doing my job”
  • Lack of peer accountability
  • General dearth of energy

Mike Cohn at Mt. Goat has a post Overcoming Four Common Objections to the Daily Scrum where he lists the seven attributes of a well-run scrum:

  1. Meetings are at the same time and place each day
  2. Meetings start on time
  3. The meetings are kept to no more than fifteen minutes
  4. Problems are identified but not solved in the meeting
  5. Participants stay on topic
  6. Rules are enforced by the whole team, not just the scrum master
  7. The whole team and only the team participates

Mix Up Your Stand Up

If things don’t quite smell right, introduce a change to the format. Pick a day, any day, of the week, and do a switch-a-roo. I like Fridays. Makes for a Fun Friday. But Whacky Wednesday or Mildew Monday will also do. Whatever makes sense for your team.

Rotate through some (or all) of the following stand up variations for that day each week:

  • Last Letter – First Letter: Anyone goes first, and then the next person must start their statement using the last letter of the previous person’s final sentence.
  • Give someone else’s report: Tell the team what someone else did yesterday and what they will be working on today and what might be in their way
  • Zip Zap Zop: Stop going clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Scrum Bingo: Have a list of “stop” words on the team board. Ring a bell anytime one of those words is used. (Hope, expect, should….)
  • Song Lyrics: Pick a well-known song or a theme song for how the iteration is going, and each member must include a reference or some bit of lyrics in their summary
  • Funny You Should Mention That: Each person must tie their statements into another team member’s report using “Funny you should mention that…”

Improv Skills for Agility

Most of these “games” have their roots in improv training. All promote skills that transfer directly into an agile mindset and culture:

  • Active listening (less interruption, no multitasking, not working off of internal agendas)
  • Team adaptability (innovation, fluidity, culture tolerance, nimbleness, surrendering the need to be ‘right’ )
  • Seeing opportunity (different perspectives, problem-solving, seeing how things ‘can’ work before we start poking holes on why they ‘won’t’)
  • Supporting each other (trust, transparency, cooperation, empathy, cross-functional coordination, and problem-solving)
  • Having a good laugh

Clean Language – Say “Hello” to Stand-Up

Geof Ellingham shared a post on LinkedIn on using Clean Language for his daily meditation.

His questions lend themselves nicely to a remake of the “standard” three questions of the team stand up:

  1. For today to go just the way you would like, it will be like what?
  2. And for today to go like that, you will be like what?
  3. And for you to be like that, what support or resources will you need?

A variation to the improv idea sketched out above.

Simple Doesn’t Always Mean “Easy”

Don’t let the simplicity of “yesterday – today – in my way” – fool you into thinking it’s easy to master. A great scrum sets the “heartbeat” for the team for the day and helps ensure the team has the best and most effective today possible – as a team.

Change the recipe once in a while and look for:

  • Emergent discovery
  • Fine-grained team coordination
  • Commitment and accountability
  • Progress as well as risks made visible
  • Support: impediments are called out, and a plan for action to remove them put in place

Read More

Matt Barcomb shared his alternative standup questions via LinkedIn:

  • What did you do yesterday that you wish you hadn’t?
  • What would you rather be doing today?
  • What’s the most likely thing to block you tomorrow?

And… here a great post on using liberating structures for the daily:

Liberating Structures for Scrum (4): The Daily Scrum

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