Daily Scrum

Inspect and adapt with your team in this daily event
Colleagues laugh and talk while seated at an office table with a laptop

Reviewed by: Anil Jaising, Bernie MaloneyMadhur Kathuria, and Raúl Herranz

The daily scrum is a brief daily event to inspect progress toward the sprint goal. You may have heard it referred to as a daily standup. Team members adapt the work in the sprint backlog if necessary and identify impediments in their way. 

It is one of the five events of the scrum framework and enables the three pillars of the empirical process of scrum: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

What Is the Daily Scrum?

The daily scrum is an activity occurring every day, ideally at the same time every day to maintain simplicity. In this meeting, team members coordinate and synchronize their activities as related to the sprint goal. They also identify impediments to progress. 

The daily scrum is an opportunity to:

  • Build trust and communication 
  • Talk about your collective work and progress toward the sprint goal
  • Ask for help, collaboration, or support if you need it
  • Let each other know about roadblocks in your way

The meeting is timeboxed to a maximum of 15 minutes – just long enough to be transparent about the work being performed but short enough to utilize daily. The brevity of the meeting facilitates focus and encourages everyone to stay on topic. 

While a daily recurring meeting could otherwise become time-consuming, the daily scrum’s short duration respects everyone’s time.

It’s worth noting that scrum team members communicate about work outside of the daily scrum as well. This scrum event is not the only time to talk to a colleague about something you’re working on, but it’s the time when you gather with all of the developers on your team to inspect and adapt the plan for the next 24 hours.

Who Attends a Daily Scrum?

The daily scrum is an activity for and by the developers. “Developer” is a scrum term referring to any professional who creates deliverables; it’s not exclusive to software developers or IT teams. 

Although this scrum event is for the developers’ inspection and adaptation, the scrum master and product owner may attend. They must attend if they are actively involved in the development of the increment.

The scrum master can contribute to the daily scrum in several ways:

  • Ensures the event occurs and is positive and productive by teaching developers the purpose of this event 
  • Teaches the team why good habits, such as syncing daily, support team focus, communication, and quick decision-making
  • Protects the team’s focus from outside disruptions during the daily scrum

Scrum masters can also provide coaching: Ideally, a self-managing scrum team should be able to hold the daily meeting without needing any guidance or cues, and the scrum master is a great person to teach them how to facilitate this event. This way, the team is less dependent on a scrum master and more self-managing.

The daily scrum is not a status meeting or status report. The purpose isn’t for a scrum master, manager, or stakeholder to see who is on schedule and who is behind; instead, it’s an opportunity for self-managing team members to synchronize with one another.

How to Run a Successful Daily Scrum 

If there’s one thing that’s typical about daily scrums, it’s that they aren’t typical at all! Your team should develop the techniques, format, and style that suit you as a team. A retrospective on your daily scrum can help you discover how to improve it.

Daily Scrum Tips

Same time and place daily. Keeping it simple with a regular cadence prevents having to think too much about the when, where, and how. The daily scrum does not have to be in the morning, but it should occur at a agreed-upon time and place to maintain consistency and cadence.

Stick to the timebox. You and your teammates will feel more engaged in daily scrums if you can depend on them being brief and focused.

Discuss impediment management separately. Problem-solving during the daily scrum tends to consume all of the focus. Many teams have an informal meeting immediately after the daily scrum with the individuals relevant to solving the blocker or adapting the backlog items or tasks.

This after-meeting is not one of the five events of scrum, but an effective way to immediately address impediments with the relevant people.

Find the right format. Teams may choose an informal conversation. They may choose a series of questions to inspect progress. Another technique is to “walk the board,” in which the team goes item by item in the sprint backlog on a task board. Mature teams may have a short conversation to adjust the plan. 

Other teams use metrics like work item age to determine the focus of their daily scrum. The team’s scrum master should help with the first format and then leave it up to the developers to fine tune a format that works well for your context.

What About the Three Daily Scrum Questions?

A traditional option for the daily scrum format involves each team member sharing the following information:

  • What did you do yesterday to support the team’s progress toward the sprint goal?
  • What will you do today to support the team’s progress toward the sprint goal?
  • Are there any impediments blocking your progress or the team’s progress toward the sprint goal?

Many scrum teams still use this method, but it’s not the only way. For example, teams may skip the formal three questions and instead engage in a less structured conversation about major impediments, collaboration or coordination needs, and work that has dependencies before it can be carried forward. 

The three-questions format was included in older versions of the Scrum Guide but no longer appears in the updated guide. Instead, developers are encouraged to select the structure they want as long as the focus is on the sprint goal and any need to adapt the sprint backlog.

Some teams find the three questions can get a little stale, especially if they do not reference progress toward the sprint goal. When discussing, focus on the goal and your collaborative progress to prevent status report answers.

If your team likes the format of questions, you can always try question variations: Instead of asking “What did you do today” and taking turns answering, your questions could be:

  • What are our collaboration needs as a team?
  • What are we doing to make progress toward the sprint goal?
  • What do we need to do today to move certain items forward?

Whatever format you choose, the key is to remain focused on the sprint goal and coordination with your teammates. 

Tools for Running a Daily Scrum

Keeping in mind that the very most important aspects of a daily scrum are inspecting progress toward the sprint goal so the team can make adjustments to the sprint backlog as necessary, there are many tools that can enhance the effectiveness of this daily activity:

  • Virtual or physical task boards
  • Virtual or physical whiteboards
  • Other visual collaboration tools
  • Project management tools
  • Spreadsheets

Ultimately, the tool you choose will depend on your team's preferences and needs. The important thing is to find a tool that makes it easy for your team to communicate and collaborate during daily scrum meetings.

Daily Scrum vs. Daily Standup

The terms daily scrum and daily standup are often used interchangeably. You may have heard people use the term “daily huddle” as well.

The term “daily standup” appears to have its origins in XP Programming. Historically, daily standup referred to a meeting in which participants stood up in order to keep things brief, focused, and to the point — no one wants to stand for longer than 15 minutes. 

Your team may or may not find standing valuable. Keep in mind that not everyone is able to stand, so the term is not inclusive. 

Plus, standing isn’t the only way to stay engaged: Your scrum master can keep the meeting focused by reminding participants of the timebox. Honoring the timebox means you don’t have to worry about whether you’re uncomfortable standing or sitting because the meeting has a definite ending. 

The labels and techniques you use are up to the team to choose. Just remember the essence of this daily activity is to create visibility of the work, inspect progress, and identify impediments so that your team can adapt as needed. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes and failures lead to growth, so any bumps in the road of your daily scrum may be opportunities to improve the format.

The following signal it’s time to inspect and adapt the daily scrum itself:

  • It’s become a boring status meeting that no one wants to attend
  • Developers are reporting personal performance to a scrum master or manager
  • The meeting isn’t held if the scrum master can’t make it that day
  • The team is trying to solve problems and find solutions during the daily scrum
  • The daily scrum is being used to refine work items
  • The timebox isn’t respected so some team members are beginning to feel like the meeting is a burden
  • Some developers think they don’t need to show up

These are signs that the daily scrum as practiced is not serving the team well.

Daily Scrum for Remote or Distributed Teams

What if team members work in different geographic locations? Or what if some work together in the office with others working remotely? 

Video meetings are ideal for distributed and remote teams because they allow for live conversation. Note that:

  • While facial expressions and gestures are visible with a cameras-on virtual daily scrum, be respectful of accommodation requests from teammates who may require their cameras off some or all of the time.
  • Being on camera for much of the day impacts people differently depending on their unique situations and can lead to fatigue. Consider having a policy that allows team members to choose whether or not they want to be on camera. 

Here are a few more tips when you can’t all be in the same place:

  • Time zones. As a team, decide how you want to schedule daily scrums if you’re in different time zones. It may be as simple as someone attending the daily scrum in the mid-morning that is everyone else’s early morning. If team members are in vastly different time zones with no overlap in working hours, your team may consider whether an asynchronous daily scrum – such as comments to a task board or chat channel – will be the most effective and respectful of people’s work/life balance.
  • Visual tools. Sharing the screen with a task board is a good collaborative device for distributed teams. 
  • Working agreements. Your team working agreement defines the processes you agree to use as a team. This agreement should include how you will communicate as a distributed team or colocated team with some remote members. 

Your working agreement can include which virtual collaboration tools and communication methods should be used for the daily scrum.

Your working agreement can include which virtual collaboration tools and communication methods should be used for the daily scrum.

Continuously Improve Scrum Team Practices

The daily scrum is a powerful tool for team coordination and communication. It helps teams inspect their progress toward the sprint goal by providing transparency into work and identifying impediments in the way of the team. 

By following best practices and ensuring that the meeting stays focused and collaborative, teams can leverage the daily scrum to improve how they work together. The daily scrum is an essential component of the scrum framework and a key element of success for any agile team.

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