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This post is from the CollabNet VersionOne blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Jun 11, 2010 — Enterprise Agile Planning expert

How To Have An Effective Daily Scrum – When The 15 Minute Meeting Takes Longer Than 15 minutes.

Enterprise Agile Planning


In the first installment of this blog series on How To Have An Effective Daily Scrum (“When The Daily Scrum Isn’t Daily” posted April 30, 2010 ) I reviewed the purpose and some good practices for effective daily scrum meetings. We also examined the first in a series of “smells” that can contribute to your daily scrums being ineffective and wasteful; why not meeting daily is a problem, and some things you can do as a servant leader to help your team with this situation.

In this installment, I’ll examine a different smell – what is happening and the impact when your daily scrum consistently goes long

Not A Problem Solving Session

A few years ago I walked into the first day of a Certified ScrumMaster class in an organization that was experiencing significant pain with their Agile transition. They decided they needed to start over, this time with some training and coaching, and asked me to help. As I was introducing myself, one of the project managers interrupted me.

“We tried Scrum” he exclaimed, “and we don’t like it!”

I was a bit taken aback by this.  “Why? What is it that you don’t like?” I asked.

“We don’t like those 90 minute daily meetings!” he replied.   Heads nodded in agreement around the room.

Well, I wouldn’t like that either, I must say. His team was distributed, so not only were they stuck in long meetings every day, they were on the telephone for all that time. What was going on that would drag out their daily meeting so long?  As it turned out, they were doing deep dives on issues, having design discussions and other team problem solving discussions during this time. Not everyone on the team was involved in all of the discussions, yet they were expected to stay on the telephone and listen.

Instead of using the daily scrum as a short, focused meeting where team members update each other, synch up their efforts and review team progress toward meeting the Sprint goal; this team had the idea that all of their communication for the day should take place during the daily scrum meeting. Nothing could be further from the truth!

To have an effective daily scrum, team members must understand the purpose of the daily scrum, and practice the necessary discipline to keep the conversation focused on the three questions:

What have I done since yesterday?
What am I going to do today?
What are my impediments?

With the focus on the daily work, a team of five to nine members should be able stay within the 15 minute time box. Issues and other discussions can and should be deferred until later, after the daily scrum is closed.

Discipline and Focus are Key

ScrumMasters are at the daily Scrum to gather impediments and help team members stay focused. Personally, as a ScrumMaster, I don’t like to act the role of the “Scrum police” i.e.  directing the conversation, insisting that team members only address the three questions.  If team members are making eye contact and talking with each other about items relevant to meeting the team commitment I wait quietly and listen.  Team communication is central to the idea of the daily scrum. I’ll use my judgment before asking team mates to take a particular discussion offline.

I do pay close attention to the time however. We start and end the meetings on time. If we start to stray out of our 15 minute time box, I’ll point it out to the team and ask them to focus on our purpose. If we need to go long in a daily scrum, we do it – with full knowledge. I have found that by keeping true to the disciplines of the 15 minute time box and focus on team progress, we bring focus to our entire day and to our sprint.

Every ScrumMaster develops their own style of facilitating the daily scrum meeting.  One of mine is to give my team updates on my progress in removing the impediments they’ve brought up previously. I make sure that I report to the team last. Once I do that (takes less than 60 seconds generally) I formally close the daily scrum with the words, “Our daily scrum is now closed.” From there I often ask the team if there is anything else that we need to discuss.

Once team members understand the purpose of the daily scrum, and get used to the focus and discipline around good habits, effective daily scrum meetings are habit simply part and parcel of how their team work together to deliver on their commitment.


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