Every Day?


Daily Scrums or stand-ups are a fixture of teams, agile or not, whether they are fulfilling goal identified in the Scrum Guide or not. The Scrum Guide identifies the Daily Scrum (often colloquially known as a stand-up) as one the key events in Scrum.  The purpose of the event is to plan work for the next 24 hours. The meeting are short, approximately 15 minutes, therefore don’t feel like a huge investment of time and money. Wrong!  An agile coaching colleague, Anthony Mersino points out that the Daily Scrum has a cost.  His estimate of $60,000 – 110,000 annually for a typical Scrum team is probably conservative if you factor in the impact of gathering time and getting coffee afterward. Done well there is an offset to the cost.  The value of the meeting comes from micro-planning and collaboration that occurs during the stand-up. The issue is that Daily Scrums or stand-ups don’t always make sense, at least the daily part. Don’t spend the money for a daily stand-up meeting when:

  1. A team can’t meet the four critical attributes of daily planning. 
    The four attributes include interrelated work, dynamic assignment, cross-functional team members, and slack.  Teams whose work doesn’t have these attributes don’t need daily planning; they need to share daily statuses. The stand-up meeting is a waste of money.
  2. The team mobs as a general practice.
    Mobbing, as described by Woody Zuill, is a technique where the whole team crowds around a single computer, trading time at the keyboard to work through a problem as an entire unit.  A team that continually mobs does not need to do a daily stand-up. Working on one problem through one keyboard means that planning and replanning happen continuously. In this very specific circumstance, the stand-up meeting is a waste of money. 
  3. The goal is to check the box.
    The Scrum Guide says to do a Daily Scrum, therefore we must do a stand-up every day regardless of whether the group gets value from the meeting or the meeting takes an hour.  Dante would have described the tenth level of hell if he would have foreseen organizations go through the motions and are agile in name only. Susan Parente and I talked about the topic in SPaMCAST 556.   Joseph Hurtado, Software Engineering Manager said, “I always ask why you do the Daily Scrum? Is it to tick a checkmark, is it just because you have to? If that is the case, I would suggest you do it less often!”  Arguably less often might be never.

There are stand-up meetings happening all over the world while you are reading this essay. Somewhere (hopefully in the conference room down the hall) people are performing micro-planning and collaborating to achieve their goal. Some of those “meetings” are achieving some other goal or scratching some other itch.  If the goal is not planning then there are different ways, less expensive approaches, to addressing status or companionship. We will tackle those next.