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Scrum Myths: Daily Scrum Is Not a Status Meeting

January 26, 2017

This post is part of a series on debunking Scrum Myths.  While my business cards say Professional Scrum Trainer, I may change that to Scrum Myth Buster.  This post debunks the myth that the Daily Scrum is a status meeting.  This myth undermines the effectiveness of Scrum in major ways.  I will share four key differences between the Daily Scrum and a status meeting.

What is the Daily Scrum?

According to the Scrum Guide, the purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect progress towards the Sprint Goal, synchronize activities, and create a plan for the next 24 hours.

  • The Developers run the Daily Scrum.
  • The event is time-boxed to 15 minutes, and it happens every day.

Essentially, the Daily Scrum is a collaborative planning session conducted by the Developers.

What is a status meeting?

There is not one definitive source for the purpose of a status meeting.  However, we can look at how this term is generally used in the workplace.  In a status meeting, individuals provide an update on the progress of their assigned tasks to another person.

  • This other person is usually someone in the role of team lead, project manager, or manager.
  • The focus is on the progress of a set of tasks or milestones, not on valuable business outcomes.
  • Status meetings tend to focus on individual contributions.

On the surface, the two may not seem that different.  However, in practice, there are important differences that drastically impact the effectiveness of Scrum.

4 Key Differences between Daily Scrum and Status Meeting

#1 – Daily Scrum promotes self-management.

The accountabilities in Scrum are important for effective self-management.  The Developers have a shared accountability to instill quality as they create the Done Increment.  This means they determine how they do it.  They own the Sprint Backlog.  By inspecting their progress and adapting the Sprint Backlog together, the Daily Scrum helps the Developers self-manage more effectively.

When a Daily Scrum is treated as a status meeting, the Developers provides a status update to someone else.  They may not feel empowered to make decisions.  This may be exacerbated if the person questions their decisions or tells them what to do.

#2 – Daily Scrum amplifies transparency and enables frequent inspection and adaptation.

Scrum uses empiricism to deal with the complexity and unpredictability of product development.  One of the three pillars of empiricism is transparency.  The Daily Scrum enables transparency by ensuring that the people who are responsible for instilling quality and determining how best to create the Increment and achieve the Sprint Goal all know what is going on.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Transparency enables teams to adapt based on the current situation and new learnings.  The people building the Increment have a short Daily Scrum every day.  This cadence and time-box optimizes the inspect and adapt feedback loop without creating waste.

If Developers are reporting a status to someone, they may not be as open about their progress and issues they face.  Furthermore, a status meeting does not emphasize adaptation of the plan.

#3 – Daily Scrum enables focus on achieving an outcome.

The entire point of Scrum is Done.  And the Sprint Goal guides the Developers.  By focusing on achieving a goal and having working software, the purpose of the Sprint is emphasized.  The Developers can assess progress in the context of the entire Sprint.  If new work has been identified that endangers the Sprint Goal, they can discuss and adapt the plan.  If issues are slowing progress, they have the right discussion and adapt the plan.

In a status meeting, individuals give updates on the tasks or items they have each worked on, and there is likely not focus on achieving a valuable business outcome.  A task or a feature that is 80% complete is not very meaningful in software development.  We don’t know what progress has been made.  We don’t know if we will likely have something that delivers business value by the end of the Sprint.

#4 – Daily Scrum promotes collaboration.

The Daily Scrum is a great opportunity to promote collaboration.  All Developers have awareness to progress, what people are working on, and what impediments are slowing progress.  Since everyone is on the same page and focused on their shared accountability, there is ample opportunity for collaboration.

The Daily Scrum is a collaborative planning session.  No single Developer owns the plan. They create it and adapt it together.  Furthermore, the Daily Scrum presents opportunities to help each other with impediments, share knowledge, or work together to get an item done faster.

In my experience with status meetings, there is not a lot of collaboration.  They tend to focus on individual contributions and coordinating work.

In summary, an effective Daily Scrum is essential to achieving the benefits of Scrum.  The Daily Scrum is a quick collaborative planning session.  It is by the Developers, for the Developers.

What techniques have you used to get out of “status mode” and amplify the effectiveness of the Daily Scrum?


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