For many teams the morning ‘scrum’ meeting has become an important part of of their daily schedule. Personally I’ve been running scrum meetings for our product development team for a year and tried a couple of different approaches to get the most out of the morning meeting. Here are my notes on what you can do to get the most out of your own morning scrum.
Don’t lose sight of the purpose of the meeting
I’m gonna go ahead and say it, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose of the scrum meeting and get caught in managerial hype. Sometimes it can feel like scrum meetings have to happen just because that’s what effective teams do but you’re not getting any real benefit out of it. Scrum meetings should not feel like a chore or something that you must do (especially if you are the scrum master).
Remind yourself what the purpose of the scrum meeting is, and that this is something that should benefit the whole team. The meeting should
- allow team members to make commitments to each other
- allow team members to provide update on their progress
- allow team members to raise and help resolve blockers
Note that the goals here are focused on team members! I point that out, because I feel it’s also important to remind yourself what the scrum meeting is not. It’s not
- a time for team members to provide a report to the manager
- a time to discuss problems and their solutions
Clarify the questions asked and answers expected
A lot of scrum teams talk about what people did the previous day and what they plan on doing the day ahead. Richard Lawrence wrote a nice post on how changing one word can help make your scrum meetings more effective. Swap out ‘did’ for ‘completed’, and ‘do’ for ‘complete’. Your questions might look something like this.
- What did you complete yesterday?
- What are you going to complete today?
- What is blocking you from completing your work?
I tried this with my team, and it can be difficult, as you’ll get similar feedback. “My tasks can’t be completed in a day”, “I’m just doing research or investigating problems”, “What if I don’t complete anything”. If your goals for the scrum are rooted in benefitting the team, not reporting to the manager and the team understands this then this will be easier to overcome.
Also note that, like I mentioned in the previous section of this post, the meeting is not about problem solving. Any issues that require follow up should be noted down (you can use a whiteboard or software to help) and discussed separately with only the relevant parties at the end of scrum.
Establish some general ground rules
These things should be standard and followed by every team member, and you’ll find most teams will suggest the sames things. Find out what works for your team and make sure they all opt in and agree to the ground rules set.
- Everyone should actually ‘stand up’. People don’t like standing for a long time so this helps keep your meetings short and to the point.
- Meetings should run on time, every time. If your meeting is at 10am, run it every day at 10am. The scrum should not be delayed to wait for people who are running late or changed to accommodate other meetings.
- They should be technology free! Everyone should move away from their desks, away from their computers and leave their phones off. If you keep your meetings short and concise this shouldn’t be an issue.
Make sure everyone is prepared for the meeting in advance
To keep your scrum as efficient as possible everyone should be prepared for scrum in advance. There’s nothing worse than waiting minutes while somebody struggles to think about what they did the previous day, or what they plan on doing the day ahead.
To help with this our team started using Geekbot, an asynchronous scrum management tool that integrates with Slack. Although we run our scrum at a fixed time every morning different team members start their day at different times and Geekbot allows everyone on the team to prepare and record their responses easily via Slack when they start their day.
When they arrive in the office and come online, Geekbot sends them a direct message on slack asking them the three questions we configure in their system (as above). Their replies are then posted in a shared Slack channel that everyone can view. This means by the time our scrum meeting kicks off, everyone has already answered and recorded their answers.
Make a record of your meetings and share with the team
It makes sense to keep track of your team’s updates to keep everyone accountable to their work and accountable to each other. By having a record of each team member’s promise on what they will complete, helps them keep on track and provides transparency to stakeholders about how the team is spending their time.
Using Geekbot, our scrum notes are recorded automatically by the team members themselves, shared in slack, and also stored on Geekbot’s own administration panel. Geekbot also provides email summaries which can be sent straight to your (or your stakeholders) inbox, on a daily or weekly basis.
Keeping track of your meetings is also a great way to keep track of what has been completed each week or in each sprint. I’ve been using Geekbot’s weekly summary to highlight achievements and things we can improve on (from blockers) in our weekly retrospectives.
Some final tips to energise your scrum
As I mentioned at the beginning, sometimes scrum can feel like a bit of a chore (who likes meetings, eh?), so it’s important to get your team energised and engaged in your morning scrum meeting. I’ve collated some ideas from various sources about some ideas you can use to energise your morning scrum meeting.
- Use a musical queue! Your meetings at 10am? Use an alarm that goes off at 10am that plays your scrum meeting kick off song. Using music can energise your team and help mix things up a bit (you can try different songs over time). I’d recommended Ludracris’ ‘Stand Up’.
- Use a speaker token! We generally give updates clockwise around the room, but you can mix things up by using a speaker token (such as a ball), and pass it around the room. “Whoever holds the ball holds the power to speak”.
- Provide some incentive! You can mix it up by surprising your team with treats, snacks or even a joke for being there and prepared for Scrum. Your team might be more excited to pay attention if there are incentives at play.
- Don’t show up! Remember the purpose is for the team to be in sync with each other. Scrum shouldn’t be dependent on the scrum master to run it or even be there for the team to benefit.
Scrums can sometimes seem like a bit of a drag if you lose sight of its purpose, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. You and your team should be excited about scrum, to sync with what each person is doing and celebrate each other’s successes and find joy it helping resolve each other’s issues.
By reminding yourself and your team about the purpose of the meeting, setting some ground rules and using tools like Geekbot to ensure your team is prepared, and everything is transparent you can easily maximise the effectiveness of your daily scrum meeting.
If you like any of these ideas or have any suggestions or feedback, get in touch with me. I’d love to hear your own ideas and experiences running scrum.