One-question daily SCRUM

A daily standup meeting (or “SCRUM”) with the team is an important part of agile development. But done wrong, these meetings can be demotivating and can reinforce traditional command-and-control management practices (which don’t scale and don’t work well with creative people).

The three questions that are “supposed” to be asked in standup meetings (according to most descriptions of Agile Project Management) are
1) What did you get done yesterday?
2) What are you going to do today?
3) What are you blocked by / need help with?

The problem is that the first question (“what did you get done yesterday”) sucks. It is important that the feel of a SCRUM meeting be peer-to-peer. And in respectful peer relationships you are not reporting achievement bullet-points to each other. The very act of reporting “what did you get done yesterday” puts people into a political mentality. The search for trivial tasks that can be done to make an impressive-sounding achievements will begin. This question just sucks in terms of the effects it has on a team, and has no place in SCRUM.

“What did you get done yesterday” is a question that seems like it was designed to solve the problem of a lazy manager. Anytime you find a process like this you should kill it, because it’s sapping the motivation of the team. Managers should work harder to get the information they need: team processes should be tuned to the information needs of workers.

The question of “what you are blocked by” is also problematic. I’ve noticed that explicitly requesting this information doesn’t work well. It makes people feel like they are complaining or ratting out their colleagues to say that they are blcoked by something that someone else is doing (or failing to do). If you focus on the work that’s being done.

The third question, “what are you working on today?”, is where the magic happens. It makes concrete the fact that people are in charge of what they want to work on. It is forward-looking so it is useful for planning purposes. And it often contains within it the answer to the first two questions. So in a slideshare SCRUM that’s the only question we ask.

3 thoughts on “One-question daily SCRUM

  1. Jabe Bloom (@cyetain) March 25, 2013 / 9:55 pm

    If you have a kanban board for your team this becomes even easier. Just review what is in progress.

  2. Kamal March 26, 2013 / 8:41 am

    The beauty of the question “What are you going to do today?” is that it automatically covers the other two to an extent. You knew on which module a developer was working on (from yesterday’s scrum), if he is not repeating that answer today, you know what was accomplished. If developer repeats the answer, you know he is stuck on something :). On an additional note, I will actually focus on creating a friendly and open atmosphere in team where they can admit easily if they are not able to solve a problem themselves and need hemp. Also a little self praise (people do that when they feel they solved some difficult problem) is not bad at times.

  3. Tay Taytay (@TaytayMik) February 3, 2015 / 10:24 am

    Interesting article.

    “what you are blocked by” question is fondamental because most of the time, when a developer says “help” about something, another developer will say “ok, I think I can help”. If the question was not answered by the developer, he would need to investigate to find the right developer for help by himself (waste of time), or he could be too proud to ask for help, which is a natural behaviour.

    The team spirit is to move forward together, help slow people without judging.

    So thumbs up for “what you are blocked by” & “what are you working on today?”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s