Want to make your Daily Scrums a total waste of people’s time? Take a look at the following conversation – which represents part of conversation within a Daily Scrum of a larger Scrum Team of eight people – that occurs week after week on an important project with real deadlines:
Jing (developer): Yesterday I integrated my code with the database changes and I am done with the Tax Entitlements feature. Today I will fix bugs and I have no impediments.
Frank (developer): Yesterday Jing asked me to update and refresh the database, but I could not finish it with Andre. Today I will continue trying to refresh the database and I have no impediments.
Pryia (tester): Yesterday I tested the Services page that Frank built and logged ten bugs. Today I will test Jing’s code and I have no impediments.
Andre (DBA): Yesterday I worked with Frank to integrate the database changes from him and Jing and refresh the data, but we could not complete the changes nor update the data. Today I will work on improving performance on a few queries and I have no impediments.
Amazing! In this Team, I counted at least four impediments – the database changes were not completed, the data was not refreshed, ten defects were logged against the Services pages and Pryia cannot test the Tax Entitlements feature. All of that from a Team that has “no impediments.” I would hate to be there on a day when there are some actual challenges.
All joking aside, most Scrum Teams I work with go through about two to three weeks of really bad Daily Scrum meetings where people keep saying day after day they have “no impediments,” when in reality there are many, many impediments to them delivering on their Sprint Goal. It is as if they Team members are working in a reality where their work is completely disconnected from one another and performed in silos. As the delays add up, people will begin to rebel pretty fast against having a daily conversation with their peers.
What will save your Daily Scrum meetings from oblivion is a simple tool borrowed from The Core – Ask For Help. Jim and Michelle McCarthy have two great podcasts (link and link) on asking for help, but the essence is real simple.
- If you need help, ask for it.
- If you don’t ask, you won’t get.
- Ask for help sooner rather than later.
Asking for help is really important in the Daily Scrum (and every other part of the framework) and hardly ever does anyone ask for help in the Daily Scrum. Yes – the Daily Scrum is not about problem solving, but that is not an excuse to obscure the need for help or fail to reveal the fact you are available to offer help. It is a fundamental right in Scrum that Team members can “ask for, and receive, help from peers, management and customers.” If participants are not getting the help they need from the one place they can ask each day, are we really surprised that the Daily Scrum is reviled?
However, just because you are not receiving help does not mean the Daily Scrum is still a waste of time. Perhaps you did not ask for help in a way that people can understand? “I have an impediment with the Daily Scrum,” is not going to be much use to your Team since it is not clear that help is needed. What is better is to remake the statement into a request, “I have an impediment with the Daily Scrum and I need help.”
I like this statement, but it still lacks context. Without understanding the impact of this impediment how do I know that this impediment is urgent? “I have an impediment with the Daily Scrum since I feel spending time in this meeting is causing more delays rather than less. I need help finding a way out of this meeting.”
This statement is much better than the first two and still can be improved. Using the Ask For Help protocol it should be reformulated to something like this, “Carlton, will you help our Scrum Teams have better Daily Scrums?” Now that is a clear, concise request for help. Imagine if you had a Daily Scrum full of conversations where people asked and offered help regularly. I can guarantee you that no one would be complaining about how Daily Scrum’s waste people’s time.