Program Management

Is your Daily Scrum effective?

If you have adopted Scrum for some time, you have probably worked in a team that has pushed back to have Daily Scrums or that haven’t seen much value in doing so. There are few common reasons that could lead to that situation:

  1. The team sees the Daily Scrum as a daily report to the Scrum Master or another member who attends the meeting
  2. The level of details is not properly set (too many details or too superficial and generic comments)
  3. The team believes they already talk during the day and don’t see a reason to have a formal event for that
  4. and many other reasons…

Those issues can be managed individually by showing the actual value of that Scrum ceremony. However, even if they bought in the idea, how do you know if your meeting is being effective? How do you know that you’re getting practical value from that theory?

Being effective is all about meeting its goals and IMHO the goals of a Daily Scrum should be:

  1. Setting (or adjusting) direction
  2. Understanding how the team is doing to meet the Sprint goals
  3. Understand where we want to be when we meet again

When attending the last TriAgile event, there were sessions and discussions about how to make Daily Scrums more effective. An interesting outcome from that day was the idea of slightly changing the 3 Daily Scrum questions to focus more on what can get done until the team meets again. According to the Scrum Guide, these are the 3 Daily Scrum questions:

  • What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • What will I do today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

Although these questions help on understanding what was done and what is planned to be done, it does not set short-term (1 day) commitments for each member to pursue and to get things done. You can easily say what you’ll do until tomorrow and have nothing actually done by tomorrow. What if instead of saying what you will work on you said what you’ll get done by tomorrow? It’s not about sharing what you’ll do. It’s about sharing which small increment of value you’ll be completing until the next meeting. With something simple like that you can change the perception of Daily Scrums from ‘reporting/planning’ to ‘achieving’. That will also force your team to have smaller tasks that can be done in a day or so.

Having said that, see below the suggested questions to make your Daily Scrum more effective:

  • What did I say yesterday I would get done to help Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • What will I get done today to help the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?
  • Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

Give it a try and share your experience!

Program Management

Should I plan future Sprints?

I’d like to cover one topic that may be a little controversial among managers or agile practitioners: whether planning sprints in advance is acceptable or not in a Scrum project. Should I plan only the Sprint my team will start or should I plan future Sprints?

Being agile is about identifying and reacting to problems as soon as possible. The three pillars of a Scrum project emphasize how to do that by inspecting, adapting and being transparent during the Scrum events. However, there is no Scrum event to go beyond the planning of the current Sprint. This is why the most purist people don’t plan future Sprints.

Even though Scrum guide does not mention this, positive results may be realized when planning more Sprints in advance. These are some benefits of doing that:

  1. Anticipate problems that require immediate actions
  2. Increase likelihood of meeting external milestones (i.e. those that do not depend on or cannot be controlled by Scrum team)
  3. Identify need of hiring new people for the team

However, how can this be done without impacts (or with minimum impacts) in the current sprint, since team members should be focused on developing the scope of the Sprint?

Slightly change Backlog grooming sessions can be a good alternative. During grooming sessions the Scrum team and the Product Owner discuss about the Product Backlog with a clear goal: finish the meeting with an improved Backlog. The definition of “improved backlog” can vary from team to team, but usually attendees focus on detailing more the user stories and their acceptance criteria. However, these sessions can also be used to create sub-tasks, to estimate and to assign them.

With a Backlog with sub-tasks and their estimates, the Scrum Master can distribute Product Backlog items in the future sprints, based on the Product Owner prioritization. Having done that, it is possible to check if some milestones look feasible, if people are over-allocated, which may require hiring new people to meet some dates and features, and so on. In addition to this, having 1:1 meetings between the Scrum Master and each team member, once a Sprint for 30-60 minutes, to review estimations and assignments improve the accuracy of the Backlog. This would require an additional effort for the Scrum Master of about 8 hours / sprint, considering a 8-member team, as well as a total of 8 hours when summing up 1 hour of each member. This can be an important practice to mitigate risks.

Important: What is planned for future sprints is not a commitment. A Scrum team can only commit to a Sprint goal after the Sprint Planning.