October 23, 2017

Myth: The Scrum Master must be present during the Daily Scrum

Scrum is intended as a simple, yet sufficient framework for complex product delivery. Scrum is not a one-size-fits-all solution, a silver bullet or a complete methodology. Instead, Scrum provides the minimal boundaries within which teams can self-organize to solve a complex problem using an empirical approach. This simplicity is its greatest strength, but also the source of many misinterpretations and myths surrounding Scrum. In this series of posts we - your ‘mythbusters’ Christiaan Verwijs & Barry Overeem - will address the most common myths and misunderstandings. PS: the visuals are by Thea Schukken.

Myth: The Scrum Master must be present during the Daily Scrum

The myth is that a Scrum Master should always be present during the Daily Scrum. In some teams, the Scrum Master is expected to facilitate the Daily Scrum, while other teams feel that the Scrum Master should be present to pick up impediments that he or she needs to solve. Either way; presence is required.

What does the Scrum Guide say?

According to the Scrum Guide, the Daily Scrum is owned by the Development Team. Scrum is built on the observation that product development is a complex endeavour. This complexity manifests in a high degree of unpredictability. Even within the scope of a single Sprint, things will probably not go as expected. A critical member of the team becomes sick during the Sprint. A high-priority bug is discovered that needs to be fixed right away. Or a new idea emerges that better addresses the Sprint Goal. Frequent communication within the Development Team is paramount to deal with these changes as they arise.

The Daily Scrum is one of the boundaries of Scrum, and provides the Development Team with at least one daily opportunity to synchronize work and plan for the day ahead. How will the team work together until the next Daily Scrum to meet the Sprint Goal? The output of the Daily Scrum consists of a daily plan and (potentially) adjustments to the Sprint Backlog that are needed to reach the Sprint Goal. Although the Scrum Master can be present to help facilitate the Daily Scrum, this is not required. The Scrum Master ensures that a Daily Scrum takes place, but the Development Team is responsible for conducting the meeting. Outside of the Development Team and potentially the Scrum Master, no other people participate. If the Daily Scrum results in decisions that affect others (like the Product Owner), they can be consulted by the Development Team afterward.

So, although the Scrum Master can participate during the Daily Scrum, this is certainly not required by Scrum.

Possible Problems

Having the Scrum Master present during every Daily Scrum is associated with a number of ‘smells’ that may indicate problems in how Scrum is applied:

  • The Scrum Master acts as a manager of the team, and uses the Daily Scrum to distribute work and make decisions on behalf of the Development Team;
  • The Development Team does not support or commit to working with Scrum, and needs the Scrum Master to ‘make sure it happens’. In this case, the deeper motivation to work with Scrum needs to be addressed;
  • The Development Team may be depending on the Scrum Master to facilitate communication within the Development Team. This impedes the ability of the Development Team to learn how to self-organize;
  • The Scrum Master uses the Daily Scrum to feel meaningful. Being a servant leader, the success of a Scrum Master often manifests in indirect ways (improvement over time, good atmosphere, learning). For some Scrum Masters, the Daily Scrum provides an opportunity to take the stage and have a visible contribution - even though it does not benefit the Development Team for the reasons stated above.

Tips

The following tips are helpful to make the Daily Scrum more effective (as Scrum Master):

  • Reiterate the purpose of the Daily Scrum at the start;
  • Take a (literal) step back during the Daily Scrum, placing yourself outside of the Development Team;
  • Limit yourself to only asking open questions during the Daily Scrum;
  • Limit yourself to only asking questions related to transparency, inspection and adaptation: “How does this new insight affect our Sprint Goal?”, “What new work needs to be made transparent?” or “What can we today to help each other achieve the Sprint Goal?”;
  • Don’t actively facilitate the Daily Scrum by asking every member to answer the three questions of the Daily Scrum. Instead, let people decide who goes next;
  • Don’t attend the Daily Scrum. Observe what happens afterward;
  • Ask someone in the Development Team to facilitate the Daily Scrum;
  • Let the Development Team choose the starting time and location. It’s their event. Therefore let them choose the time that suits them best. This increases the feeling of ownership and encourages the team to start on time.

Closing

In this blog post, we’ve described the myth that the Scrum Master should always be present during the Daily Scrum. We’ve offered the perspective from the Scrum Guide, described some examples of possible problems in how Scrum is applied and shared tips & tricks on how to make the Daily Scrum more effective.

What is your opinion about this myth? We are always eager to learn from your experiences as well!

Want to separate Scrum from the myths? Join our Professional Scrum Master-courses (in Dutch or English). We guarantee a unique, eye-opening experience that is 100% free of PowerPoint, highly interactive and serious-but-fun. Check out our public courses (Dutch) or contact us for in-house or English courses.