This chapter deals with one of the crux issues that almost every Scrum master or agile coach faces at some time. The daily meeting has become an almost ubiquitous signal to the world that a team or a company is agile. In some cases, people have convinced themselves that doing the daily Scrum is all they have to do to be agile. There are a myriad of reasons why the daily Scrum goes bad. This chapter of Fixing Your Scrum, Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems, by Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller, walks through some of the most important indicators that the event is broken. However, it misses one that I’ll come back to at the end of this entry in Re-read Saturday.

The first anti-pattern that Todd and Ryan address in this chapter is the daily Scrum as a status meeting. This is a pet peeve of mine and I enjoyed their take on it. I’ve written several pieces on this topic so I won’t belabor the point, but I do find their definition of an impediment in the “Joe Asks” call-out very useful. An impediment is “anything that can prevent the development team from achieving its sprint goal.” The definition of an impediment is broad enough to cover something that impacts the whole team or an individual but the critical point is having a sprint GOAL. Not having a sprint goal makes the definition of an impediment or the more colloquial blocker much less operational. In several places in the book we return to the idea using the sprint goal to focus behavior. It is important to recognize all of the interconnected parts of Scrum. Walking away from one makes other pieces much harder to generate value from. 

In the anti-pattern titled “the team isn’t making progress,” Todd and Ryan point out that the team needs to be responsible for achieving the sprint goal. Scrum is a team approach, it is not designed for individuals pursuing their individual goals. When there is no shared responsibility there is no need for team self-organization or planning. In these scenarios, the daily Scrum turns into status meetings or the “daily” Scrum turns into the bi-weekly or occasional Scrum. Collective action and responsibility are two assumptions at the heart of Scrum. 

In the Coaches Corner at the end of the chapter Todd and Ryan suggest seven practical experiments (experiments is my word) to try during the daily Scrum. There is no perfect event; context will influence the team’s behavior. But since there is no perfect approach for every situation, experimentation needs to be part of the Scrum Master’s handbook. Use the scientific method to test your hypotheses. Not every experiment will work, but every experiment should yield information for the team to try something new.

The issue that I don’t think is addressed in this charter, and perhaps doesn’t belong in the book, is that the daily Scrum is a canary in the coal mine. Problems in the daily Scrum are often a marker for a different kind of deeper organizational problems. One pernicious problem is that of a team not being a team. The performance of a team requires everyone to interact and play a role, together. A team that doesn’t have a sprint goal because everyone is working on loosely related tasks isn’t a team in the way team-based approaches like Scrum expect. Teams, where every person has a specialty and work can’t be shared between the specialties yield statusy daily Scrums. Scrum requires several behavioral assumptions to be effective. When considering the daily Scrum, the assumptions you need to be aware of include the team having a goal and that team members must interact with each other to deliver value. Teams that can’t meet those criteria are not good candidates for Scrum. But, before throwing your hands up and adopting a non-agile approach to working, start by challenging the organizational status quo; maybe change is possible.

Chapter 11 in Fixing Your Scrum, Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems, by Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller, talks about the sprint backlog. The sprint backlog is the work teams do on a day-to-day basis. 

If you have not bought your copy — what are you waiting for? Fixing Your Scrum: Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems 

Previous Installments

Week 1: Re-read Logistics and Front Matter 

Week 2: A Brief Introduction To Scrum, and Why Scrum Goes Bad 

Week 3: Breaking Bad Scrum with a Value-Driven Approach 

Week 4: The Product Owner 

Week 5: The Product Backlog 

Week 6: The Development Team 

Week 7: Embracing The Scrum Master Role 

Week 8: Management 

Week 9:  Thinking In Sprints 

Week 10: Sprint Planning 

Week 11: Sprint Backlog