Project Management Basics – Chapter 14 – Agile Rituals – The Daily Scrum
“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.” Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
“We are our culture and tradition; if there is no culture or tradition we are no one.” Tamerlan A Kuzgov
The rituals of agile matter.
Several weeks ago there was a survey posted on LinkedIn that asked about the daily scrum. It specifically asked if the daily scrum was necessary for agile development. I can’t recall the survey results, but one my colleagues commented that (I am paraphrasing) it would be even better if the team were self-directed and met whenever they had something to talk about.
That sounds pretty good! It has a great “servant leader” ring, and everyone using agile methodologies wants self-directed teams!
It completely misses the psychological aspect of the ritual.
For those of you unfamiliar with agile rituals, the daily scrum is a meeting where the development team meets every day and each team member answers three questions:
1) What have I accomplished since we last met?
2) What will I accomplish before we meet again?
3) What barriers am I facing?
This meeting is limited to 15 minutes, and it is a best practice to require everyone to stand up to enforce the notion that this is a quick daily meeting.
The meeting if most effective if held in front of a task or Kanban board containing all the work to be accomplished in the sprint. Most of the boards have some variation of these columns: Sprint backlog, work in process, test, completed.
To maximize the psychological impact of the ritual, each member of the team should move their work from one column to the other as work is completed and new work put in process.
Imagine you are a developer working on the agile team. You stand up in front of your peers and announce that you have completed a feature and are moving it from “in process” to “test”. You then announce that you will begin starting on another feature and expect to have ½ of it done by tomorrow. Finally, you share that have a small issue you are dealing with, but almost immediately one of your team members helps you with that.
It is beautiful in its simplicity and practicality. Issues are addressed real time, and every day the team gets a sense of accomplishing something. Work imbalances and slow output are self-corrected through the subtle peer pressure of knowing exactly how much work everyone is doing and how quickly work is completed.
If you are on a remote team, you can hold the daily scrum using collaboration tools like Jira to share a virtual Kanban board.
Don’t think of the daily scrum as a meeting, it is ritual that drives performance! Hold them daily.
Next I'll discuss Shu Ha Ri.
I heard a television host say something that seemed like a brilliant insight. I know! Brilliance from television? I was surprised too! Here is what they said, “If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you don’t, pound the table.” I researched that phrase (and found some interesting websites in the process…) and this is actually an adaption of an old legal aphorism that goes “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table." Brilliant! And a great tell for determining if a public person is lying to you. If they are worked up into a rage but are presenting no facts, they are lying. Every time. Try that filter and tell me how many lies you spot.