The Daily Scrum Meeting: Everything You Need to Know

For those of you unfamiliar with the origins of the term, Scrum, it was taken from the world of rugby. Scrum is short for scrummage, where players huddle up at the start of play and then move together as one down the field attempting to gain control of the ball.

The concept of a scrum as it relates to project development was first introduced by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi in a paper that was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1986. 

The Scrum Method.

In the mid-90s, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber took this idea and developed it into a formal methodology for the IT industry. Scrum is a framework for breaking down complex tasks into smaller, bite-size chunks that can offer deliverables all along the course of development and not just at the end.

Unlike the more traditional waterfall method, Scrum allowed companies to become more competitive by becoming nimbler. Developing software is fraught with the unknown and unpredictable. Being able to identify problems early and adapt quickly helped speed up the development process. 

One quick note: The terms Scrum and Agile are sometimes used interchangeably. While they are similar, they are not the same. In the simplest terms, Agile is often described as a philosophy and Scrum as a methodology. Agile is more abstract thought, whereas Scrum offers concrete actions to follow.

The Scrum methodology digests a project segment by segment. It is characterized by a small team (typically 3-9 people) working on a task that can be completed within 2-4 weeks. As each of these sections is successfully finished, that portion can be activated. The process eventually leads to the completion of an entire project.

Who Is in the Scrum?

Today, this project management style is no longer confined to software development. It can be applied to any business with complex projects. As we run through the following terms, the references to a scrum master, product owner and developers may or may not apply to your business. But take a moment to think about what these roles might translate to in your organization. For instance, who would be in a similar role to the developers or product owner?

The developers are the “players on the field” creating the software. A Scrum Master is likened to a coach because he assists the team and product owner. However, he may also be part of the team as a developer. The Product Owner is like the team owner, the person who specifies the direction of the project and determines the objectives.

What Is a Daily Scrum Meeting?

One of the hallmarks of the Scrum project management style is the daily Scrum meeting. This short meeting kicks off the day by putting a focus on today’s tasks only. It may also be referred to as the “Stand-Up Meeting” because teams usually stand in an effort to keep it short. Participation of the entire team is mandatory. 

In theory, the meeting is for the developers and run by the developers. The Scrum Master may make sure the meeting happens, but he does not run the meeting. Self-organization and collaboration tend to develop naturally when everyone is on equal footing.

What Is the Purpose of the Daily Scrum Meeting?

The idea behind a short, daily meeting is to have a quick review of what was accomplished yesterday, get the team focused on the upcoming day’s work, and to identify if there are any potential roadblocks that will impede that progress. The purpose of this meeting is not to solve those problems—simply to identify them so they can be dealt with later.

How to Structure the Daily Scrum.

Have the meeting take place in the same place at the same time every day. It simplifies the process, and everyone knows what to expect. Many teams find it helpful to meet first thing in the morning, but depending on how the office is structured, a different time of day may work better. 

Stick to the three basic questions below.

The Daily Scrum Meeting Questions.

There are three questions associated with the Daily Scrum Meeting and they are:

  1. What did we do yesterday?
  2. What are we doing today?
  3. What is in our way?

Each team member should answer each of these questions, so as you can see, brevity is important. This meeting is not meant to be an accounting of every detail, rather it’s a heads up to the team. As a team member, are you on schedule? Where do you think you’ll be at end of day? Is there something you need help with to get there?

The Daily Scrum Meeting Agenda.

You don’t need one! When everyone is finished answering the questions, you’re done. Could be five minutes, or 15 depending on the size of your team.

You may have a need for a follow-up meeting with one or more of the team members based on what came up in the meeting, but the rest of the team can move on with their work.

Daily Scrum Meeting Outcome.

A daily scrum meeting should ready all workers to hit the ground running. It is the plan for how to move the ball today.  

In the world of IT, the Scrum meeting often served as an early warning system. Glitches were discovered and could be examined and tested before the project went all the way to its end only to discover something wasn’t working properly.

How Long Should a Daily Scrum Meeting Last?

A daily Scrum meeting should never exceed 15 minutes. The idea is to have a brief jumpstart to the day. It’s not the place to solve complex problems or go off on tangents. It is important to keep to the task at hand. Try setting a timer everyone can see as a reminder to keep their remarks short. If you’re repeatedly finding it hard to keep to 15 minutes, you may need to reduce the scope of the meeting. 

Daily Scrum Meeting Participants.

Looking at the Scrum meeting from its origins in IT, developers were the only ones participating in the meeting. The Scrum Master may have been in charge of making sure it happened, but they did not participate unless they were also a developer on the team. 

For your purposes, you may decide you need a meeting facilitator to keep things running smoothly. However, avoid turning the meeting into a status report, where everyone is reporting to a manager. Perhaps one of the team members could fill the facilitator role, or maybe each person on the team could take a turn. 

The intention of a Scrum meeting is to have the players active in the “hands on” work talking with each other. If an obstacle is identified, the team can quickly work out what comes next. 

What Is a Scrum Board?

Essentially, a scrum board is a physical representation of the work the team is doing. The board outlines the project with the tasks represented by cards. As each team member answers the three questions above, they can move their task card from one column to another to reflect the progress. This works particularly well for visual thinkers. 

A digital board can be used if there are team members working remotely.

How to Effectively Run a Daily Scrum Meeting.

  1. Be consistent. Hold the meeting every workday at the same time each morning and in the same place to keep the process simple. Everyone knows where to go and when. 
  2. Always start on time, do not wait for late team members. Underscore the expectation that they be on time. 
  3. Do not go over 15 minutes. 
  4. Stay on point. 
  5. Divert complex problems or unrelated matters to another meeting. 

Best Practices for Running a Daily Scrum Meeting.

Different organizations might have slightly different needs and goals for their Scrum meeting. For instance, some projects or team personalities may benefit from having a meeting facilitator who can keep things on track. In any case, here are a few ideas for making your Scrum an effective tool.

  1. Some facilitators or team leaders, like to give their teams a name and a mascot. It can help introduce a little humor and bond the team. And undoubtedly, they can find ways to work this into team meetings and events.
  2. Create some sort of “talking stick,” maybe related to your theme. The person holding it has the floor and they pass it to the next person when done. Some leaders have found using a light weight to be helpful. The longer the speaker holds it out in front of them, the quicker they will be inclined to wrap up their remarks. 
  3. Keep strict time. Have a large clock visible to everyone counting down to the finish.
  4. If that doesn’t work, set a timer for each person so no one can go over their allotment.
  5. To keep people on their toes, avoid patterns. Pick someone randomly to start and when they finish, they pick the next speaker. Everyone must stay alert because they have no idea when it will be their turn.

Make the Scrum Meeting Work for You.

If you have a complex project to complete, can it be broken down into smaller parts and tackled by small teams? If so, it may allow you to find problems earlier in the process and deliver ongoing results as you gradually move to completion.

The daily Scrum meeting is at the heart of this process because it has the effect of keeping the “players on the field” energized and focused. It can be a powerful tool in your quest to organize tasks and hit your goals.